US stops giving militant death tolls in Afghanistan

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Published: Friday July 24, 2009

The US military in Afghanistan has stopped releasing figures showing how many militants have been killed in fighting with US-led forces, officials said Friday.

“Indicating the number of insurgents killed has little relevance to impacting the lives of Afghans,” Navy Rear Admiral Gregory Smith said in an email to AFP.

“In fact, if that were the only purpose and metric, you would likely only extend the time it takes to bring about an end to the insurgency,” he added.

He confirmed he sent an order last month to NATO and US forces blocking the military from releasing details on militant death tolls and providing estimates instead.

The move comes as President Barack Obama’s administration is shifting the US role in Afghanistan towards enhancing the safety of civilians, seeking to stem support for the deadly Taliban insurgency.

“The goal of security operations in an insurgency is to separate the people from the insurgents. Without access to the people, the insurgents lose their main center of gravity,” Smith said.

Smith, who is revamping communications for the US military and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, stressed US-led military operations were not aimed at killing insurgents.

The objective was to “clear areas of insurgency and give the people a chance to reconnect with official forms of governance and to rebuild their lives, socially and economically.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Sunday the US military and its allies must show progress in Afghanistan by mid-2010 to avoid public perception that the conflict has become unwinnable.

Victory, Gates told the Los Angeles Times, was a “long-term prospect” under any scenario and that the United States would not win the war within a year.

Obama has dispatched 21,000 fresh troop reinforcements to the war-torn country as international forces battle a mounting Taliban insurgency. By year’s end, some 68,000 US forces are set to operate in Afghanistan.


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