Why the Afghan Surge Was a Failure in One Chart

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When the U.S. troop surge wound down in Afghanistan last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta slapped a positive gloss on the operation, saying it succeeded in "reversing the Taliban momentum." While some anti-war critics questioned that outlook, one of the most damning assessments of the surge's efficacy now comes in the form of a chart by NATO itself.

In the above chart, obtained by Wired's Spencer Ackerman, every incident in which the Taliban or affiliated insurgents attacked NATO forces is recorded. If you compare 2009, when the troubles in Afghanistan pushed President Obama to increase troop numbers, to today, progress has not been great. Per Ackerman:

In August 2009, the peak of the fighting season and the height of the internal Obama administration debate over a troop surge, insurgents attacked U.S. and allied troops — using small-arms fire, homemade bombs, mortars and more — approximately 2700 times. In August 2012, they attacked just shy of 3000 times.

In August 2009, insurgents used just under 600 homemade bombs on U.S.-aligned forces. They used just over 600 homemade bombs on U.S.-aligned forces in August 2012. The same trend holds for every other month in 2009 compared to every month in 2012 for which there is data: the insurgency launched more attacks this year.

Altogether, it's a pretty dispiriting assessment considering the significant number troops sent—30,000 from the U.S.—to suppress the insurgency. For the entire dour report, read Ackerman's article here.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.