WASHINGTON — The U.S.-led military command in Afghanistan will no longer count and publish the number of Taliban attacks, a statistical measure that it once touted as a gauge of U.S. and allied success but now dismisses as flawed.
The move comes one week after the coalition, known as the International Security Assistance Force, acknowledged in response to inquiries by the Associated Press that it had incorrectly reported a 7 percent drop in Taliban attacks in 2012 compared with 2011. There was no decline at all, ISAF officials now say.
The mistake, attributed by ISAF officials to a clerical error, called into question the validity of repeated statements by allied officials that the Taliban was in steep decline.
Anthony Cordesman, a close observer of the war as an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said it had been clear for months that ISAF's figures were flawed.
"The truth is they should not have published them in the first place," he said. "A great many people realized from the start that it was a meaningless measurement" because it implies that in order to succeed the Taliban has to keep attacking rather than gaining ground by influencing ordinary Afghans. It's that influence which needs to be overcome in order to ensure the viability of the Afghan government.
The United States and its ISAF allies have pledged to end their combat mission by the end of next year, and while they are likely to leave at least several thousand troops to help train Afghan troops, the Afghans are to assume the lead role for security across the entire country this spring, when the Taliban typically step up their attacks.
There are now about 66,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.