In case you missed it, a couple of days ago the Afghan Analysts Network dropped a report on NATO night raids in Afghanistan that was picked up by a number of media sources, including The Guardian, who saw fit to turn it into pretty and informative graphics.
ISAF aren’t happy about that.
Among a number of sentences that read like the soundtrack to rattles being thrown out of prams, this one really took the biscuit:
“ISAF was never consulted in the preparation of this study, nor asked for data regarding operations.”
For the record, the study was looking at ISAF press releases because:
“ISAF actually releases a large amount of information about its activities in the form of press releases. These press releases range from two to fifteen per day. Although this data is not the complete picture (not all operations are written up as press releases), it offers insight into how ISAF sees its contribution to the war and presents a far more differentiated picture of the capture‐or‐kill raids than the released aggregate data on its own.”
The point, therefore, was not to present a statistical analysis of the efficacy of NATO raids, which would probably be impossible due to operational security, but an analysis of what ISAF is saying, why they appear to be saying it and what that means about the conflict. They go on to make a few points about the apparent interchangeability of terms like “insurgent leader” and “insurgent facilitator”.
What is really interesting is that in the midst of their knee-jerk defence, ISAF says this:
“The published ISAF press releases used in preparing the AAN report were never intended to be an authoritative database of all ISAF operations conducted in Afghanistan, nor even a representative sample from which to draw scholarly conclusions. Any analysis of complex combat operations based on press releases alone, which by definition are written to provide basic, factual information, inevitably will produce an overly simplistic, flawed and inaccurate product.”
Which begs the question: What, exactly, is the purpose of ISAF reports in the first place? Is ISAF seriously going on record to say that the data that they are making public cannot be relied upon? If analysts cannot build arguments out of the “basic, factual information” that ISAF is providing, why provide it at all? Personally, I thought the research methodology of “believing what ISAF says” to be rather erring on the side of NATO. Apparently not, according to ISAF. We should instead disbelieve in their own chain of public reporting as a method of gaining any understanding of the conflict whatsoever, since we couldn’t possibly understand the conflict from what they say. At least until the next positive press release, I imagine.