Afghanistan: Measuring strategy's effects

  • Inputs
  • Results
  • Case study: Nawa District

Fighting the war differently

It was not until this fall that Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top coalition commander, proclaimed that the United States finally had “all the inputs right” in Afghanistan. Although President Obama announced a surge of 30,000 troops last December, the final wave of new forces did not arrive until October. The military also has spent the past year bringing in more desperately needed equipment. On the civilian side, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development have sent hundreds more people to help rebuild the country and improve local government. Here is a closer look at what has been added:


Most of the new forces dispatched by Obama have been deployed to Helmand and Kandahar provinces in the south, and to bulk up the American presence in the east. Although the Dutch pulled out all of their combat forces this year and the United States has been unable to persuade most other allies to increase their contributions, the multinational, NATO-led mission still includes about 40,000 troops from 47 other countries.



Hundreds more Special Operations troops have been sent to Afghanistan this year, and they have been significantly more active. In the spring, they averaged about five missions a night. By the fall, they were averaging 17 raids a night. In a three-month period ending Nov. 11, they conducted 1,572 operations, resulting in 368 insurgent leaders killed or captured, and 968 lower-level insurgents killed and 2,477 of them captured, according to NATO statistics.

Other Special Operations units have been focused on recruiting and training Afghans to participate in armed village defense forces.


The Afghan army and national police force met the growth goals for the year three months ahead of schedule. But attrition, desertion, drug use and low morale remain problems. Although NATO allies pledged to send more trainers, more than 900 positions remain unfilled.



More than $4.7 billion was appropriated for reconstruction and development in the 2010 fiscal year. Much of the money has gone to pay for the Afghan government’s basic operations and for assistance programs, including support for farmers. The contingent of U.S. diplomats, reconstruction specialists and other civilian experts has increased from 320 at the end of 2008 to about 1,100 now.


Many U.S. officials think public anger over corruption is a principal reason why Afghans decide to support the Taliban. After President Hamid Karzai objected to the role of U.S. investigators in assembling a bribery case against one of his top aides, the American anti-graft effort has shifted its focus to corruption by lower-level officials whose actions directly impact the population. Petraeus has sought to limit the role U.S. funds play in fueling corruption by issuing new contracting rules.

SOURCES: Institute for the Study of War, Department of Defense, Associated Press, Congressional Research Service, NATO and International Security Assistance Force data, Washington Post/ABC News/ARD/BBC Afghanistan Poll
GRAPHIC: Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Alicia Parlapiano, Gene Thorp and Laura Stanton / The Washington Post - Dec. 11, 2010.

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