emailed by Barney Rubin:
The Dynamics of the “AfPak” Conflict:
Metrics and Status Report
By Anthony H. Cordesman
with the assistance of Nicholas B. Greenough
April 27, 2009
The Afghan-Pakistan conflict is a complex conflict which covers two countries and which has ideological, political, governance, economic, military, and security dimensions that are extremely difficult to measure and portray in summary form. NATO/ISAF, the UN, the US Department of Defense, and various polls and NGOs have, however, gradually developed summary metrics and maps of the conflict. The data provide a useful overview of developments in the conflict, and are beginning to go beyond the military dimension to show how Afghans and Pakistani’s perceive the conflict, and provide better data on the political and economic side of the conflict.
The Burke Chair has developed a series of presentations that includes maps and graphics from a range of sources that cover given aspects of the war, and that bring together a range of metrics in key areas.
These presentations include a summary overview of the war – which is largely a current status report – and a series of sub-reports which begin to pull together a historical record of the various metrics in given subject areas. These latter reports include comparative graphics that show how given metrics have changed over time. The trends and differences they portray often provide important perspective on the trends in the conflict, but also reflect important contradictions in various reports on the war, and methods of describing it.
The following reports and subreports are now available on the CSIS web site.
Afghan-Pakistan War Summary available from:
The Rising Intensity of the Conflict 2001-2007 available from:
The Rising Intensity of the Conflict 2007-2008 available from:
Status of 2009 available from:
The Battle of Perceptions available from:
The Shifting Nature of the Threat available from:
One War in Two Countries: Afghanistan versus “Pashtunistan” available from:
Developments in NATO and ISAF Forces available from:
Afghan Economics and Conditions of life available from:
The user should be aware, however, that the focus of these reports is on metrics related to war fighting, and the success or failure of armed nation building. They also reflect the fact that unclassified reporting often covers the entire country, rather than the areas where the fighting takes place; and that this can seriously distort the realities on the ground where the conflict is actually taking place.
One critical defect in almost all reporting on the level of conflict is that it only measures what the US, NATO/ISAF, and Afghan forces encounter in terms of tactical clashes and casualties. This reporting has some value, but it cannot portray one of the most critical dimensions of the war: The areas in Afghanistan and Pakistan where Taliban and Jihadist influence is growing or dominates given areas. It is the ability to dominate areas over time, not who wins given clashes, that determinates defeat or victory and by this standard, no unclassified US or NATO/ISAF reporting provides a meaningful picture of what is really happening in the war.
Much of the economic and aid reporting on the war is also virtually useless. It measures national macroeconomic trends without regard to the conditions affecting ordinary Afghans. It also makes no effort to trace the level of economic progress or problems in high risk or conflict areas. Reporting on aid activity is particularly weak. It rarely provides any picture of the extent to which it actually meets Afghan needs and requirements, and often is little more than an estimate of total money spent or number of projects without any regard on its impact on either war fighting or Afghan development.
Perhaps the greatest single weakness in current reporting
- and one reflected in virtually all past and current metrics - is that almost all reports only cover Afghanistan and not Pakistan. This “one country” approach to reporting on the war effectively ignores a critical aspect of a conflict. The Afghan War has always been a struggle focused on the Pashtun population in both countries, and the status of Afghan insurgent movements in Pakistan has always been as critical as their actions in Afghanistan.
This, however, is only part of the problem. Reporting that focuses on Afghan stability and attitudes but not on Al Qai’da in Pakistan, ignores a critical strategic dimension of the war. Equally important, the overall stability of Pakistan has become a major strategic concern. The failure to report on the broader patterns of instability in Pakistan, on Pakistani attitudes towards the fighting, and on the broad mix of Jihadist elements in Pakistan ignores what may well be the most important strategic center of gravity in the conflict.
The end result is that all of the available unclassified metrics reflect critical problems in the way the US, NATO/ISAF, the UN, and other organizations report on the war that cannot be covered with current unclassified reporting. Not only is there a critical lack of transparency, reporting is decoupled from the reality that this is war, not post conflict reconstruction; that insurgencies are local in character and vary sharply in intensity by region; and that metrics need to be provided that cover the “hold and build” aspects of what the US has said is a “win, hold, and build” strategy.
These reports will be regularly updated and expanded. We would greatly appreciate suggestions as to additional material that should be included. Such suggestions should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2009-04-27 17:26:37 UTC