Press Secretary: Outlook on Afghan Progress Remains Positive
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2013 Despite discovery of a clerical error that incorrectly indicated a drop in Taliban attacks, the Defense Department’s assessment of progress in Afghanistan is unchanged, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said here today.
At a Pentagon news conference, Little said the incorrect information is being fixed.
“This is a regrettable error in our database systems that was discovered during a routine quality check,” he said. “We are making the appropriate adjustments. In spite of the stated adjustment, our assessment of the fundamentals of progress in Afghanistan remains positive.”
Little said the clerical error doesn’t change the fact that 80 percent of the violence has been taking place in areas where less than 20 percent of the Afghan population lives. The Taliban have been pushed out of population centers and have failed to retake any of the areas they lost, he added.
Afghan security forces are now in the lead for the vast majority of partnered operations, and have taken the leading role in providing security for 87 percent of the country's population, Little told reporters.
“There's a tendency sometimes to fixate on one metric, whether it's this particular database number or insider attacks or casualties,” he said. “The complete picture of progress in Afghanistan is much more nuanced, and I would encourage you to look at that overall picture.”
Little also said the congressionally mandated Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan will be reviewed for any necessary adjustments, but that he doesn’t believe a broader review is necessary.
“As we transition in partner war with the Afghans, we're going to have to collect information with them, so we need to make sure that our numbers and their numbers are accurate, that they're reported effectively, that our systems are capable of processing those numbers, and then we drive out the correct analytics at the end,” he said.
The Defense Department has a duty to convey information that is as accurate as possible, the press secretary said. “So I view this as a limited instance at this stage,” he added. “If there is a broader problem, of course, we'll be forthright about it.”
Little said this year’s statistics show a “story of tremendous progress” for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
“It’s, in part, what steps American and ISAF partners have done to orient this very effective campaign in the right direction,” he said. “It's also about what the Afghans are doing themselves to orient their own campaign, and it's about what we're doing together in Afghanistan.
“And we're seeing major muscle movements on all three tracks,” he continued. “And I think if you add the progress up along those three tracks -- bearing in mind that there are still challenges out there, and we're not at all discounting the challenges that still remain in the midst of a war -- then the overall trend lines are very positive.”
Little said the goal of ISAF partners has been to “make this war effort over time, more and more Afghan, not just the face of Afghans providing security for their own country, but also their capabilities.”
“And we are, I think, doing a very effective job enabling them,” he added. “And in many cases, they have surpassed our own expectations. That's not to say we don't have work to be done … in certain areas. But they have really taken on this fight, willingly, and have made great sacrifices, and we're trying to help them every step of the way.”