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Reports on Taliban Attacks to End

  • FILE - In this Jan. 26, 2012 file photo, an Afghan solider, left, stands guard at the scene of a suicide attack in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province south of Kabul, Afghanistan. The U.S.-led military command in Afghanistan said Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that it will no longer publish figures on Taliban attacks, a week after acknowledging that its report of a 7 percent decline in attacks last year was actually no decline at all.  (AP Photo/Abdul Khaleq, File)

    FILE - In this Jan. 26, 2012 file photo, an Afghan solider, left, stands guard at the scene of a suicide attack in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province south of Kabul, Afghanistan. The U.S.-led military command in Afghanistan said Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that it will no longer publish figures on Taliban attacks, a week after acknowledging that its report of a 7 percent decline in attacks last year was actually no decline at all. (AP Photo/Abdul Khaleq, File)

  • FILE - In this Jan. 26, 2012 file photo, an Afghan solider, left, stands guard at the scene of a suicide attack in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province south of Kabul, Afghanistan. The U.S.-led military command in Afghanistan said Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that it will no longer publish figures on Taliban attacks, a week after acknowledging that its report of a 7 percent decline in attacks last year was actually no decline at all.  (AP Photo/Abdul Khaleq, File)

    FILE - In this Jan. 26, 2012 file photo, an Afghan solider, left, stands guard at the scene of a suicide attack in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province south of Kabul, Afghanistan. The U.S.-led military command in Afghanistan said Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that it will no longer publish figures on Taliban attacks, a week after acknowledging that its report of a 7 percent decline in attacks last year was actually no decline at all. (AP Photo/Abdul Khaleq, File)

  • FILE - In this Jan. 26, 2012 file photo, an Afghan solider, left, stands guard at the scene of a suicide attack in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province south of Kabul, Afghanistan. The U.S.-led military command in Afghanistan said Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that it will no longer publish figures on Taliban attacks, a week after acknowledging that its report of a 7 percent decline in attacks last year was actually no decline at all.  (AP Photo/Abdul Khaleq, File)
  • FILE - In this Jan. 26, 2012 file photo, an Afghan solider, left, stands guard at the scene of a suicide attack in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province south of Kabul, Afghanistan. The U.S.-led military command in Afghanistan said Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that it will no longer publish figures on Taliban attacks, a week after acknowledging that its report of a 7 percent decline in attacks last year was actually no decline at all.  (AP Photo/Abdul Khaleq, File)

Washington — The U.S.-led military command in Afghanistan will no longer count and publish the number of Taliban attacks, a statistical measure that it once touted as a gauge of U.S. and allied success but now dismisses as flawed.

The move comes one week after the coalition, known as the International Security Assistance Force, acknowledged in response to inquiries by The Associated Press that it had incorrectly reported a 7 percent drop in Taliban attacks in 2012 compared to 2011. In fact, there was no decline at all, ISAF officials now say.

The mistake, attributed by ISAF officials to a clerical error, called into question the validity of repeated statements by allied officials that the Taliban was in steep decline.

Anthony Cordesman, a close observer of the war as an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said it had been clear for months that ISAF’s figures were flawed.

“The truth is they should not have published them in the first place,” he said. “A great many people realized from the start that it was a meaningless measurement” because it implies that in order to succeed the Taliban has to keep attacking rather than gaining ground by influencing ordinary Afghans.

“Over the last year it has become clearer and clearer that not only was the measurement meaningless, but it became embarrassing because there weren’t any (ISAF and Afghan) gains,” he added, noting that Taliban attacks last year were more numerous than in 2009, before President Obama sent an extra 30,000 U.S. “surge” troops.

“Basically speaking, we’ve ended up — after the surge and three more years of fighting — with absolutely nothing that we can tell ourselves that shows the level of progress we did or did not achieve,” Cordesman said.

The U.S. and its ISAF allies have pledged to end their combat mission by the end of next year, and while they are likely to leave at least several thousand troops to help train Afghan troops, the Afghans are to assume the lead role for security across the entire country this spring, when the Taliban typically step up their attacks.

There are now about 66,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Statistical measures of battlefield progress have long been a point of dispute, not only in Afghanistan but also in Iraq. Jamie Graybeal, a spokesman for ISAF’s headquarters in Kabul, said yesterday that the coalition has lost confidence in the reporting system that produced its figures on “enemy-initiated” attacks. That is mainly because more combat operations are being performed by Afghan forces, out of view of American and allied troops. That means ISAF has diminishing control over the mechanics of collecting the data.