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Watchdog: Americans 'Don't Know What's Going On' in Afghanistan

US military no longer releasing district control data
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 1, 2019 10:55 AM CDT
In this Feb. 11, 2019, file photo, acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan, left, arrives in Kabul, Afghanistan, to consult with Army Gen. Scott Miller, right, commander of US and coalition forces, and...   (AP Photo/Robert Burns, File)
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(Newser) – Amid a battlefield stalemate in Afghanistan, the US military has stopped releasing information often cited to measure progress in America's longest war, calling it of little value in fighting the Taliban insurgency, reports the AP. A government watchdog agency that monitors the US war effort, now in its 18th year, said in a report to Congress on Wednesday that the US military command in Kabul is no longer producing "district control data," which shows the number of Afghan districts—and the percentage of their population—controlled by the government compared to the Taliban. Last released in January, the information showed Afghan government control of districts had fallen nearly 2 percentage points to 53.8%, while the share of the population under Afghan government control—largely unchanged from May 2017 to July 2018 at about 65%—had dropped in October 2018 to 63.5%.

In 2017, a top US commander in Afghanistan said he wanted to see the population control figure reach 80%, with the Taliban holding only about 10% and the rest contested. "This, we believe, is the critical mass necessary to drive the enemy to irrelevance," Gen. John Nicholson said. His successor, Gen. Scott Miller, believes there already are enough such assessments available to the public. A spokesman references "a political settlement to safeguard our national interests." Discussing such disclosures in January, President Trump said, "I don't want it to happen anymore ... The enemy reads those reports." However, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction counters that "the Taliban obviously know which districts they control. Our military knows it. Everybody in Afghanistan knows it. The only people who don't know what's going on are the people who are paying for all of this, and that's the American taxpayer." (Read more Afghanistan stories.)

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