Leaked report belies Afghan surge
'success' By Gareth Porter
WASHINGTON - An analysis by Lieutenant
Colonel Daniel Davis, which the US Army has not
approved for public release but has been leaked to
Rolling Stone magazine, provides the most
authoritative refutation thus far of the official
military narrative of success in the Afghanistan
War since the troop surge began in early 2010.
In the 84-page unclassified report, Davis,
who returned last autumn after his second tour of
duty in Afghanistan, attacks the credibility of
claims by senior military leaders that the war
strategy led by the United
States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
(NATO) has succeeded in weakening the Taliban
insurgent forces and in building Afghan security
forces capable of taking primary responsibility
for security in the future.
which Davis had submitted to the army in January
for clearance to make it public, was posted on the
website of Rolling Stone magazine by journalist
Michael Hastings on Friday. In a blog for the
magazine, Hastings reported that "officials
familiar with the situation" had said the Pentagon
was "refusing" to release the report, but that it
had been making the rounds within the US
government, including the White House.
Hastings wrote that he had obtained it
from a US government official. Contacted by IPS
Friday, Davis would not comment on the publication
of the report or its contents.
that he is "no Wikileaks guy Part II", Davis
reveals no classified information in the report.
But he has given a classified version of the
report, which cites and quotes from dozens of
classified documents, to several members of the
House and Senate, including both Democrats and
"If the public had access to
the classified reports," Davis writes, "they would
see the dramatic gulf between what is often said
in public by our senior leaders and what is true
behind the scenes."
Davis is in a unique
position to assess the real situation on the
ground in Afghanistan. As a staff officer of the
"Rapid Equipping Force", he traveled more than
14,500 kilometers to every area where US troop
presence was significant and had conversations
with more than 250 US soldiers, from privates to
The report takes aim
at the March 2011 Congressional testimony by
General David Petraeus, then the top commander in
Afghanistan, and the Defense Department's April
2011 Report to Congress as either "misleading,
significantly skewed or completely inaccurate".
Davis attacks the claim in both the
Petraeus testimony and the DOD report that US and
NATO forces had "arrested the insurgents'
momentum" and "reversed it in a number of
That claim is belied,
Davis argues, by the fact that the number of
insurgent attacks, the number of improvized
explosive devices (IEDs) found and detonated and
the number of US troops killed and wounded have
all continued to mount since 2009, the last year
before the addition of 30,000 US troops and 10,000
Davis notes that Petraeus and
other senior officials of the International
Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the US-NATO
command in Afghanistan, have boasted of having
killed and captured thousands of insurgent leaders
and rank and file soldiers, cut insurgent supply
routes and found large numbers of weapons caches
as well as depriving the insurgents of their main
bases of operation since spring 2010.
these claims were accurate measures of success,
Davis writes, after the Taliban had been driven
out of their strongholds, "there ought to have
been a reduction in violence not a continual,
unbroken string of increases".
Davis writes, Taliban attacks "continued to rise
at almost the same rate it had risen since 2005
all the way through the summer of 2011" and
remained "well above 2009 levels in the second
half of 2011" even though it leveled off or
dropped slightly in some places.
notes that total attacks, total number of IEDs and
total US casualties in 2011 were 82%, 113% and
164% higher, respectively, than the figures for
2009, the last year before the surge of 30,000
troops. The annual number of US dead and wounded
increased from 1,764 in 2009 to 4,662 in 2011.
The veteran Army officer quotes
Congressional testimony by Admiral Mike Mullen on
December 2, 2009, as citing a lesser increase in
Taliban attacks in 2009 of 60% over the 2008 level
as a rationale for a significant increase in US
troop strength in Afghanistan, implying that the
war was being lost.
Davis leaves no doubt
about his overall assessment that the US war
effort has failed. "Even a cursory observation of
key classified reports and metrics," Davis
concludes, "leads overwhelmingly to the conclusion
that over the past two years, despite the surge of
30,000 American Soldiers, the insurgent force has
Davis is also scathing
in his assessment of the Afghan army and police,
who have been described as constantly improving
and on their way to taking responsibility for
fighting the insurgents.
"What I saw
first-hand, in virtually every circumstance,"
writes Davis, "was a barely functioning
organization - often cooperating with the
Both in his longer
report and in an article for Armed Forces Journal
published online on February 5, Davis recounts his
experience at an Afghan National Police station in
Kunar province in January 2011. Arriving two hours
after a Taliban attack on the station, Davis asked
the police captain whether he had sent out patrols
to find the insurgents.
After the question
had been conveyed by the interpreter, Davis
recalls, "The captain's head wheeled around,
looking first at the interpreter and turning to me
with an incredulous expression. Then he laughed."
"No! We don't go after them," he quotes
the captain as saying. "That would be dangerous!"
According to Davis, US troops who work
with Afghan policemen in that province say they
"rarely leave the cover of the checkpoints",
allowing the Taliban to "literally run free".
Describing the overall situation, Davis
writes, "[I]n a number of high profile mission
opportunities over the past 11 months the ANA
[Afghan National Army] and ANP [Afghan National
Police] have numerous times run from the battle,
run from rumors, or made secret deals with the
The draft posted online notes
after that statement that the classified version
of the paper has been "redacted", indicating that
Davis provides further details about those "secret
deals" in the classified version.
dissenter calls on the House and Senate Armed
Services Committees to "conduct a bi-partisan
investigation into the various charges of
deception or dishonesty in this report". He urges
that such a hearing include testimony not only
from senior military officials but from mid- and
senior-level intelligence analysts from the
Defense Intelligence Agency and other intelligence
Both Senate and House Armed
Services Committees have exhibited little or no
interest in probing behind the official claims of
success in Afghanistan. That passive role reflects
what many political observers, including some
members of congress, see as cozy relationships
among most committee members,military leaders,
Pentagon officials and major military contractors.
It remains to be seen whether Davis's
raising of the issue of misleading claims of
success in a front-page New York Times story on
February 6 and in subsequent television
appearances will bring pressure on those
committees from other members to hold hearings on
whether senior military officials are telling the
truth about the situation in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the US military leadership in
Afghanistan is brushing off Davis's critique as
having no importance. During a briefing in which
he claimed continued steady progress in
Afghanistan, Army Lieutenant General Curtis
Scaparrotti, deputy commander of US
Forces-Afghanistan, dismissed the Davis report as
"one person's view of this".
Porter is an investigative historian and
journalist specializing in US national security
policy. The paperback edition of his latest
book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power
and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published
in 2006. (Inter Press