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Measuring Success: Are We Winning? 10 Years in Afghanistan

Measuring Success: Are We Winning? 10 Years in Afghanistan

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Published by Amber Allen
The American Security Project (ASP) released a new report titled, “Measuring Success: Are We Winning?” which identifies a concrete set of measurements for tracking the progress in the war in Afghanistan 10 years into U.S. involvement in the region. Some of the findings in the report reveal that the opposing parties involved—the Taliban and its allies, and the U.S., NATO, and its allies—are fighting different wars with different outcomes.
The American Security Project (ASP) released a new report titled, “Measuring Success: Are We Winning?” which identifies a concrete set of measurements for tracking the progress in the war in Afghanistan 10 years into U.S. involvement in the region. Some of the findings in the report reveal that the opposing parties involved—the Taliban and its allies, and the U.S., NATO, and its allies—are fighting different wars with different outcomes.

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Published by: Amber Allen on Oct 06, 2011
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05/24/2012

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www.AmericanSecurityProject.org1100 New York Avenue, NW Suite 710W Washington, DC
Measuring Success: Are We Winning?
10 Years in Aghanistan
By Joshua Foust
October 6, 2011
Introduction
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011 saw the war in Aghanistantake a very dierent turn. Ratherthan a grinding summer o battlesbetween insurgents and Coalitiontroops, the Aghan insurgents begana campaign o assassinations, attacksagainst high-prole targets in Kabul(which many considered secured andunassailable), and a sophisticatedinuence campaign.Starting in January, they launched abrazen suicide assault on an upscale supermarket in a secured area o Kabul, targetingthe country director o a private security rm.
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In February, suicide attackers explodedbombs at a hotel in downtown Kabul, killing two.
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In April, insurgents attacked AghanArmy and International Security Assistance Force bases in the city, though they killedno one other than themselves.
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 In June, gunmen launched a sustained, complex attack on the heavily guarded HotelIntercontinental in Kabul, killing eighteen people.
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Over the summer, they launcheda string o deadly attacks, killing dozens o people.
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In August, insurgents launchedyet another complex, sustained attack on the British Council in a wealthy, securedneighborhood o Kabul, killing eight.
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And in September, a small team o insurgentsmanaged to re machine guns and launch RPGs at the U.S. embassy or over 20 hoursbeore being neutralized by Coalition orces.
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 Given the persistent underreporting o violence in Aghanistan, there could very wellhave been even more violence than this short list captures.
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Tis marked shi would seem to indicate the war is being lost. But because the U.S. ailsto monitor crucial aspects o the war, there is no reliable way to be certain.
    P    h   o   t   o    C   r   e    d    i   t  :    U    S    A   r   m   y
 
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 AMERICAN SECURIY PROJEC
10 years aer U.S. orces invaded Aghanistan, we still lack the means to tell whether the war is being won or not.
None o those attacks, taken in isolation, killed very many people — the deadliest was the IntercontinentalHotel attack, which included seven dead insurgents — and they weren’t meant to. Even September’s attack on the U.S. embassy wasn’t very complex, and the insurgents did not demonstrate any particular tacticalgenius.
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Te insurgents, however, do not need to win large tactical victories in order to win the war: they arenot ghting a symmetric war. Rather, they seem intent on disrupting the Aghan government’s ability to govern - so that rule o the Islamic Emirate o Aghanistan becomes preerable to Aghans.
In 2008, an attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul was widely considered unthinkable. Te downtownneighborhoods were being surrounded by what many called a “Ring o Steel”
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— dozens o guards,roadblocks, checkpoints, and barricades — so that business could take place in a Green Zone where violence was kept at a minimum. oday, the insurgency can penetrate the Ring o Steel again and again tolaunch attacks.Te recent attacks served to shake condence in ISAF and the Aghan government.
In contrast, ISAF seems to be waging a diferent war altogether.ISAF reporting on its activities seems more concerned with establishing a running tally o operations— relying on insurgent body counts to underscore progress in the war,
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publishing data only on deadly attacks,
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tangible measurements o progress like counting the number o community shuras it hosts,
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 and counting how many soldiers nish basic training.
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While ISAF data capture many physical measurements o the war, it is less successul in measuring thesocial and political eects o the war, such as which side Aghans think will ultimately win.In essence, the aliban and its allies must shake condence in the Aghan government and diminish theWestern appetite or staying in order to win. Te International Security and Assistance Force and its Aghanallies are waging a ar dierent war – based on sweeping operations, inrastructure creation, and security orce training.With both parties to the conict ghting dierent wars with dierent types o outcomes, is it even possibleto gauge i the ISAF and Aghan government coalition is winning?
Te answer is not simple.
When gauging ISAF’s success in Aghanistan one should rst dene success — something we show isnot easy to do. Once success is dened, one can create the metrics by which one would measure progresstoward or away rom that dened success.We settled on the most generous interpretation o President Obama’s publicly stated aims or the war: deny al Qaeda sae haven, prevent the aliban rom overthrowing the government, and build up the Aghan
 
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security orces and the government so they can take responsibility or their country’s uture.
How one goes about reaching this goal is no simple matter: two o the three objectives PresidentObama stated are dened by absence rather than by achievement, and the third objective is not really denable in concrete terms.
While it may be difcult to say when, exactly, we can know that our goals have been met, we can developa series o metrics that should indicate whether we are progressing toward those goals or not.Te ollowing paper describes those metrics, and tries to determine whether we are measuring the mostrelevant data to gauge success in Aghanistan.Lastly, we ask the question: what are we actually measuring? And do the data we have allow us to accurately gauge the success o our eorts?

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