WASHINGTON (AP) — The American-led military coalition in Afghanistan backed off Tuesday from its claim that Taliban attacks dropped off in 2012, tacitly acknowledging a hole in its widely repeated argument that violence is easing and that the insurgency is in steep decline.
In response to Associated Press inquiries about its latest series of statistics on security in Afghanistan, the coalition command in Kabul said it had erred in reporting a 7 percent decline in attacks. In fact there was no decline at all, officials said.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is among the senior officials who had publicly repeated the assertion of an encouraging drop-off in Taliban attacks last year, was disturbed to learn of the error, said his spokesman, George Little.
“This particular set of metrics doesn’t tell the full story of progress against the Taliban, of course, but it’s unhelpful to have inaccurate information in our systems,” Little said.
A coalition spokesman, Jamie Graybeal, attributed the miscounting to clerical errors and said the problem does not change officials’ basic assessment of the war, which they say is on a positive track as American and allied forces withdraw.
The 7 percent figure had been included in a report posted on the website of the coalition, the International Security Assistance Force, on Jan. 22 as part of its monthly update on trends in security and violence. It was removed from the website recently without explanation. After the AP asked last week about the missing report, coalition officials said they were correcting the data and would re-publish the report. As of Tuesday afternoon it had not reappeared.
It was not clear whether or how the Pentagon might correct a separate report – its semi-annual report to Congress on security progress in Afghanistan, which used some of the same Taliban-attack statistics. The report was sent to Congress in December.