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Eikenberry and McChrystal are Setting Actual Metrics for Afghanistan

Laura Rozen, newly minted Politico hire, posts the integrated civilian-military campaign plan for Afghanistan from Amb. Karl Eikenberry and Gen. Stanley McChrystal. And if you turn to an appendix, you can find an elusive, chimerical beast: metrics for measuring progress. Well, sort of. They may not be the National Security Council’s metrics, but the document sets areas of joint civilian-military emphasis, which it calls “COIN Transformative Effects.” You know how Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said the United States will know progress “when we see it“? Yeah, that doesn’t seem to have satisfied Eikenberry and McChrystal either.

There are eleven COIN Transformative Effects set out by the document, some of which should come as no surprise: Population security; giving the Afghan government an “information initiative” to “tell a story of substantial, though uneven, progress in providing security, economic opportunity, and social justice”; access to justice (a breach into which the Taliban has stepped); the “expansion of accountable and transparent governance”; elections and “continuity of governance” (officials acquiescing to elections that might kick them out, in other words); sustainable jobs for Afghans; agricultural opportunity and market access; “action against irreconcilables,” which is to say confronting and defeating insurgents militarily, after “distinguish[ing] irreconcilables on the operational battlefield”; going after the “nexus” of “insurgency, narcotics, corruption and criminality”; reintegrating former “mid-to-low level insurgents”; and border security.

This is ambitious, as the document concedes, and “requires additional resources,” which paves the way for more money, civilian officials and troops. It promises “3-year objectives, roles and responsibilities.” That’s the closest we’ve come yet to the Obama administration actually saying outright how long the Afghanistan campaign will go on — not that it promises the war will be over in three years.

So, how to measure the COIN Transformative Effects? The campaign plan sets up a quarterly process to “roll up in to” the “metrics required by the National Security Council.” Since those metrics are still TBD, it’s hard for a document dated August 10 to actually contribute substantively those. But it promises a “common methodology” that starts from the district level on up to the national level to view progress in Afghanistan province by province, with “quantitative analysis” provided by “statistical data and surveys” alongside “qualitative assessment” based on “criteria-defined observations from the field” in support of measuring “agreed-upon measures of effectiveness.” Teams from across Afghanistan, “integrated across civilian and military entities,” will provide these assessments.

So: how’s it going so far? Not auspiciously. The areas of focus are broad. And some of them are already showing checks in the Setbacks column. For instance, on elections, one of the stated “Priority Objectives 2009-2010″ reads: “national, provincial and district (TBD) elections [that] are seen as legitimate.” Understandable, most definitely. But with the widespread fraud that’s been reported, it’s unlikely that such an outcome will occur.

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