The Afghanistan Rights Monitor's (ARM) mid-year report on Civilian Casualties of Conflict (.pdf) blasts the happy-talk coming out of the Obama Administration about the deteriorating security situation and its effect on civilians:
Despite the high-profile spin in Washington and Kabul about progress made in Afghanistan, the Afghan people have only witnessed and suffered an intensifying armed conflict over the past six months. Contrary to President Barrack Obama's promise that the deployment of additional 30,000 US forces to the country would "disrupt, dismantle and defeat" Taliban insurgents and their al-Qaeda allies in the region, the insurgency has become more resilient, multi-structured and deadly. Information and figures received, verified and analyzed by Afghanistan Rights Monitor (ARM) show about 1,074 civilian people were killed and over 1,500 were injured in armed violence and security incidents from 1 January to 30 June 2010. This shows a slight increase in the number of civilian deaths compared to the same period last year when 1,059 deaths were recorded.
...In terms of insecurity, 2010 has been the worst year since the demise of the Taliban regime in late 2001. Not only have the number of security incidents increased, the space and depth of insurgency and counter-insurgency-related violence have maximized dramatically. Up to 1,200 security incident were recorded in June, the highest number of incident compared to any month since 2002.
The administration and their allies have continuously claimed that "we"re making progress," "we"re turning the tide," or "we"ve begun to reverse the insurgents' momentum," but the data doesn't support their assertions. As ARM's report shows, civilian casualties continue to climb even as more troops flood into the country--troops executing a counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy supposedly premised on "protecting the population." The rise in troop levels and civilian casualties has been accompanied by an increasingly large and sophisticated insurgency and a widening lead in sympathy or support for the insurgents in key districts of Afghanistan.
Even the portion of the report that blasts the insurgent factions for their outrageously immoral tactics is bad news for the U.S. The report slams insurgents use of IEDs and suicide bombings as weapons of choice. A number of news outlets have noted this portion of the report along with the drop in U.S./NATO-caused civilian deaths, but it's a safe bet you won't find too many honest-to-God COIN-lovers cheering about the stats noted in this report. COIN doctrine asserts the importance not just of the protection of civilians from killings by counterinsurgents (in this case, U.S. and allied forces), but the protection of the people in general. Counterinsurgency doctrine says that people aren't going to switch to your side if they think they'll get killed for it, no matter how few cause civilian deaths your team causes.
ARM was similarly blunt when it came to the issue of the corruption and abuse rampant in the Afghan government and their police force:
Amidst widespread concerns about rampant corruption and abuse of power by the police, NATO has not only continued to recruit ill-qualified people to swamp police numbers but has reportedly reduced the training period to only four weeks.
An overwhelming majority of the police is illiterate and lack adequate knowledge about the basics of civil policing and human rights. Many police officers are addicted to drugs, have notorious criminal backgrounds or maintain allegiance to powerful militia or criminal commanders...Pervasive corruption and abuse of authority by the police have devastating impacts on individuals and communities that desperately need a sense of security, protection and the rule of law. Corrupt and abusive police also contributed to widespread criminality, criminal impunity and denial of peoples' access to justice and other essential services.
If you can't protect the population generally, from the perspective of COIN doctrine, you lose. If you lack a legitimate host nation government as a partner, you lose. And guess what? According to that doctrine--the doctrine used as the rationale for the troop-heavy American strategy in Afghanistan--the United States is losing. Badly.
If you're tired of seeing blood and treasure wasted on a brutal, costly war that's not making us safer, join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and sign up for a local Rethink the Afghanistan War Meetup.