Friday, June 3, 2011

Be Careful When Choosing Metrics

I am writing a paper on Canadian civil-military integration on the ground for a workshop in Australia (tough life, yes, but someone has to do it), and I was struck by this sentence in the third quarterly report in 2010:
Tellingly, insurgents did not manage to conduct an effective, complex or spectacular attack in either Kabul or Kandahar City during the July to September quarter.
Um, un-check with the recent prison break.  I have been wondering whether the spate of spectacular attacks the past month or two across the country are Tet-like ways to score some big PR points and undermine the coalition's claims rather than a real indicator of increased Taliban capability.  Of course, as Tet showed us, the PR points matter a great deal, much more than the capability.  But I am still trying to figure out what the real trendline is.  Lots of mixed messages coming out of Afghanistan, so it is hard to figure out the patterns.  Still, the idea that the surge is "working" to reduce violence is hard to see right now.  Perhaps at the end of the summer, we can count IEDs, suicide attacks, and where the people are standing to figure it out.  

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