The Washington Independent
The Washington Independent

The Afghanistan-Pakistan Metrics Exist!

Last updated: July 31, 2020 | September 16, 2009 | Ceri Sinclair

Big scoop from Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy: right in time for that closed door briefing to the Senate on the metrics for judging progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan, here the metrics are. I can’t help but notice in light of this post that it begins with a restatement of the anti-al-Qaeda goal that the strategy is meant to produce, something that’s appeared to have gotten a bit lost in the shuffle.

So what are the metrics? In Pakistan, they’re … way counterinsurgency heavy. It’s a lot of subjective stuff on governance, like the government’s “actions to create necessary steps to ensure economic stability, job creation and growth,” and “demonstrable action” against corruption; as well as military measures like the power of the Pakistani military to conduct “counter-insurgency operations across the clear-hold-build phases to defeat insurgent groups.” That’s not to say there aren’t counterterrorism-relevant metrics. Three of them include the “level of militant-initiated violence”; “extent of militant-controlled areas in Pakistan”; and “effectiveness of Pakistani border security efforts.” These may not be strictly counterterrorism metrics, but they’re certainly counterterrorism-relevant. The bigger concern is that the measurement doesn’t include any criteria for reaching a judgment, though the document refers to a “classified annex,” so perhaps that has more detail.

On Afghanistan, the metrics get more granular. There are 14 security-specific metrics, including the “degree to which security operations are integrated into the overall COIN campaign”; “level of insurgent-related violence”; “percent of population living in districts/areas under insurgent control”; “percent of populations living in districts/areas ‘held’ by coalition and/or [Afghan security forces] and where ‘build’ activities are ongoing”; “capability, to include size, of the [Afghan army] and [Afghan police]“; “level of corruption within the [Afghan security forces].” There’s a lot in here to appeal to the Carl Levins of the Senate, who want to focus on bolstering Afghan security capacity ahead of increasing troop levels again: “level of trust and confidence by the Afghan people in the [army and police's] ability to provide sustained security”; “ability of the [Afghan security forces] to assume lead security responsibility” and so on.

On the Afghan governance side, there are ten metrics, including on that already looks to have bit the dust: “Afghan government’s institutions at the national, provincial and local level, including ability to hold credible elections in 2009 and 2010.” Oh well. There’s also “support for human rights”; “demonstrable action by government against corruption”; “public perception at the district level of the Afghan Government’s effectiveness and sustained ability to provide services” (interestingly, not the volume or consistency of the services themselves); “volume and value of narcotics”; and perhaps most importantly, “Afghan Government’s efforts to develop and execute reconciliation programs at the national, provincial and local levels with U.S. and international support.” Finally, there are seven metrics about the international community’s support for Afghanistan, including the “effectiveness of international security, governance, and development assistance” and relations between Afghanistan and its neighbors.

Most of these look unfamiliar to the benchmarks established for Iraq in 2007, which included such granular measurements as electricity kilowatt-hours and sectarian-caused deaths and so forth. That’s what happens when Congress lets the administration write its own benchmarks instead of writing them for it. One pledge that the metric document makes is that by “March 30, 2010 and on regular intervals thereafter” — whatever that means — the Obama administration will provide assessments to Congress of how it’s doing, as well as a “Red Team” assessment to check the self-applied grade, conducted by a team led from the National Intelligence Council.

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