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Nato success against Taliban in Afghanistan ‘may be exaggerated’
Posted by The Agonist on October 12th, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

Julian Borger | Oct 12

The GuardianReport says kill-or-capture raids are not a surgical tactic as claimed and use of the word ‘leader’ is suspect

The success of one of Nato’s principal tactics against the Taliban – targeted night raids aimed at killing or capturing leaders of the insurgency – may have been exaggerated to make the military campaign in Afghanistan look more effective, according to a report published on Wednesday.

The study shows that for every “leader” killed in the raids, eight other people also died, although the raids were designed to be a precise weapon aimed at decapitating the Taliban on the battlefield by removing their commanders.

The report also notes that in briefings to the US media aggregate claims made for the number of Taliban leaders killed or detained over a given period were sometimes much greater than the numbers recorded in the daily press releases.

The report, by Kandahar-based researchers Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn, for the Afghanistan Analysts Network, looked at the daily press releases published by the Nato-led International Stability Assistance Force (Isaf) to create a profile of the “kill-or-capture raids” from December 2009 to the end of September this year.

Strick van Linschoten also said Isaf’s definition of the word leader was “so broad as to be meaningless”. He said the words leader and “facilitator” were sometimes used interchangeably in the Isaf press releases, although facilitator could just be someone whose house an insurgent group was thought to have used. A previous study of night raids had found that many people classified as leaders captured in night raids had subsequently been released by Isaf.

“The use of the word ‘leader’ is intended to convey the impression that the masterminds of the Taliban are being taking off the battlefield. That’s a misrepresentation,” Strick van Linschoten said.

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