AMERICAN SECURIY PROJEC
10 years aer U.S. orces invaded Aghanistan, 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.
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 Aghan government’s ability to govern - so that rule o the Islamic Emirate o Aghanistan becomes preerable to Aghans.
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”
— 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 condence in ISAF and the Aghan 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,
publishing data only on deadly attacks,
tangible measurements o progress like counting the number o community shuras it hosts,
and counting how many soldiers nish basic training.
While ISAF data capture many physical measurements o the war, it is less successul in measuring thesocial and political eects o the war, such as which side Aghans think will ultimately win.In essence, the aliban and its allies must shake condence in the Aghan government and diminish theWestern appetite or staying in order to win. Te International Security and Assistance Force and its Aghanallies are waging a ar dierent war – based on sweeping operations, inrastructure creation, and security orce training.With both parties to the conict ghting dierent wars with dierent types o outcomes, is it even possibleto gauge i the ISAF and Aghan government coalition is winning?
Te answer is not simple.
When gauging ISAF’s success in Aghanistan one should rst dene success — something we show isnot easy to do. Once success is dened, one can create the metrics by which one would measure progresstoward or away rom that dened success.We settled on the most generous interpretation o President Obama’s publicly stated aims or the war: deny al Qaeda sae haven, prevent the aliban rom overthrowing the government, and build up the Aghan