Photo: Geoffrey Ingersoll
An apparent drop in the number of insurgent attacks in Afghanistan that was cited by the Nato-led coalition as evidence of progress against the Taliban has been revealed as a clerical error.Coalition headquarters in Kabul admitted that attacks did not fall by seven per cent over the course of 2012 as originally reported, but remained at the same levels.
The mistake was caused by staff failing to add figures from the Afghan security forces, a spokesman said.
The slip will embarrass commanders and politicians who have repeatedly insisted there was a fall in attacks last year as proof that the 11-year-old campaign was succeeding and security was improving as troops withdraw ahead of 2014.
“This was a record-keeping error that we recognised and have now corrected,” a statement said.
“Specifically, in the past we have reported that the year-over-year change in enemy-initiated attacks (EIA) from 2011 to 2012 had decreased by seven per cent.
“After including this unilateral Afghan national security force data into our database, we have determined that there was no change in the total number of EIAs from 2011 to 2012.”
Enemy attacks is one of a host of statistics gathered by commanders trying to gauge the state of a campaign where progress is often patchy and uncertain. Barack Obama’s surge of troops boosted security and the strength of the Kabul regime in Kandahar and Helmand. But security has fallen in other areas and, with the Taliban far from defeated, much of the country remains contested even as troops leave.
Nasima Niazi, an MP from Helmand where British troops are withdrawing, said security had improved in the centre of the province, though she feared gains would reverse as troops and money left.
One senior European diplomat told The Daily Telegraph security in the north of the country was “not good and it’s getting worse”.
The coalition said in spite of the error “our assessment of the fundamentals of campaign progress has not changed. The enemy is increasingly separated from the population and the Afghan forces are currently in the lead for the vast majority of partnered operations.”
Separately, a suicide bomber wounded at least seven in the Afghan capital when he crawled under a bus ferrying Afghan soldiers to work and detonated his charges.
Six soldiers and one civilian were hurt. Witnesses said the bomber wearing a black overcoat and carrying an umbrella against the snow walked towards the bus as soldiers boarded. He wriggled underneath then exploded, engulfing the bus in flames.
Ahmad Shakib, a witness, told the AP news agency: “I thought to myself, ‘What is this crazy man doing?’ And then there was a blast and flames.
“It was a very loud explosion. I still cannot really hear.”
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast.
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