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    ISAF responds to use of AAN news releases study



    Courtesy Story

    International Security Assistance Force HQ Public Affairs

    KABUL, Afghanistan – ISAF takes serious issue with the misrepresentation of coalition operational information outlined in the “A Knock On the Door” report published by the Afghan Analysts Network. In general, the methodology of comparing data found in ISAF press releases and correlating that to battlefield effectiveness badly misrepresents the reality of ISAF operations and will confuse serious researchers or those engaged in balanced reporting on this subject. A careful read of the research methodology can easily lead to a number of faulty conclusions. ISAF was never consulted in the preparation of this study, nor asked for data regarding operations.

    A flaw in the “analysis of press releases” is the lack of data in this report. When associated with the broad spectrum of combat operations and particularly special operations activities, it does not automatically result in a press release. Public disclosure, even after the fact, may result in compromise of sensitive information. Release of information in insurgent warfare is not always made public, so studies based on the use of press releases can be both incomplete and problematic.

    There are dozens of special operations missions conducted across Afghanistan every week. The majority of these are partnered with and often led by Afghan forces. Most of these efforts are not detailed through news releases.

    The report’s authors address night operations. ISAF press releases -- the source of the author’s data -- capture a wide variety of military operations conducted throughout the country at any time of the day. This data is not extrapolated out of the conclusions formulated by the authors.

    Night operations, as addressed in the report, remain one of the most effective methods for targeting key leaders and insurgents -- they minimize civilian casualties by conducting operations during a time when most civilians are not in and around targeted areas. Nearly 90 percent of the time, night operations are conducted without a shot being fired, and the intelligence based targeting is so precise that the potential for civilian casualties is quite low. During night operations, almost half the missions result in removing the intended target from the battlefield. ISAF operations are planned and conducted with the support of a vast set of intelligence to ensure the coalition and our Afghan partners are contributing to overall campaign progress, with minimal collateral damage to the population.

    Regarding confusion over leaders versus facilitators in the report, leaders are individuals responsible for providing direction to a group of people subordinate to them. Groups can vary in size, from less than 10, to dozens or even hundreds of individuals. Similar to other military units, insurgent leaders can have responsibility of leading formations ranging from a few individuals, to much larger numbers.

    Facilitators assist in the conduct of future operations by assisting insurgent movement, equipping, people, munitions, cash, etc. Individual roles can change and leaders, likewise, can absolutely be classified as facilitators.

    The published ISAF press releases used in preparing the AAN report were never intended to be an authoritative database of all ISAF operations conducted in Afghanistan, nor even a representative sample from which to draw scholarly conclusions. Any analysis of complex combat operations based on press releases alone, which by definition are written to provide basic, factual information, inevitably will produce an overly simplistic, flawed and inaccurate product.

    The analysis conducted in the AAN report lacks the broader context of the ISAF mission and the dynamics of the insurgency in Afghanistan. The nature of the insurgency, including its geographic focus, changed during the period December 2009 - September 2011. Overall violence levels are trending downward in 2011 and enemy initiated attacks are also down across the country. ISAF and Afghan National Security Force activity varies in intensity and location in response to the demands of the mission and conditions on the ground. Linking all these variations with other factors such as a change in ISAF command leadership to draw an operational conclusion is puzzling and completely spurious.

    ISAF does not recognize insurgents killed or captured as the sole indicator of progress in the mission overall. ISAF press releases provide some details of insurgent casualties as part of its mandate to inform the public, but trying to create an analysis primarily using insurgents reported as “killed or captured” through press releases will inevitably lead to faulty conclusions and inaccurate data and in no way represents any type of analytical sampling.

    Authoritative research cannot be conducted through mere analysis of press releases, since the release of information through such releases is, by design, incomplete. ISAF hopes this clarifies some of the great confusion generated by this study and welcomes rigorous analysis methodology in future endeavors.



    Date Taken: 10.13.2011
    Date Posted: 10.13.2011 16:22
    Story ID: 78455
    Location: KABUL, AF 

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