In the middle of a war, the most crucial information is just how much of the enemy’s territory is captured by the other side. But the United States isn’t engaged in the kind of war that has a front, a rear, and can be delineated on a map somewhere. Even in the counterinsurgency kind of war, one might think it’s still important to track which areas are more or less under control. According to U.S. military commanders, they would be wrong.
For years, the U.S. military was happy to tell the American public just how much of Afghanistan it controlled and how much fell to the Taliban.
“Just shoot in any direction, I guess.”
For years, the government provided data on how much of the country is under control of the Afghan government and the ISAF mission, and how much is under the control of the Taliban and other insurgent groups. Between 2015 and November 2018, the percentage controlled by the Taliban is up. Way up.
In 2015, the Afghan government controlled 72 percent of the country. Since then the resurgent insurgency has fought back, causing that number to dwindle to 54 percent in October 2018.
An Afghan security force personnel fires during an ongoing an operation against Islamic State.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction; the body designated by Congress to monitor American spending in Afghanistan reported that the NATO-led mission, Resolute Support, “formally notified SIGAR that it is no longer assessing district-level insurgent or government control or influence.” The United States military in Afghanistan backed SIGAR on the move, saying district stability data “was of limited decision-making value to the commander.”
The report from SIGAR that announced the decision was released on May 1, 2019, and did not explain why the data was of no use to the commander. The only clue is that the United States has long questioned the accuracy of the models produced by SIGAR and is only based on unclassified data, which is not what the U.S. military is likely to use.U.S. Army soldiers from the 1-320 Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, watch helicopters at Combat Outpost Terra Nova
John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction, told Morning Edition:
“The enemy knows what districts they control, the enemy knows what the situation is. The Afghan military knows what the situation is. The only people who don’t know what’s going on are the people who are paying for it, and that’s the American taxpayer.”