Monday, February 11, 2008

Shell game

I have no doubt that Lt. General Michel Gauthier believes he is right. Given the change in the traces, what he is describing is probably accurate in some measure.
Insurgent ambushes have fallen in four of Kandahar's 17 districts as the latest rotation of troops has focused on protecting the vital zone around the provincial capital, said Lieutenant-General Michel Gauthier, although he did not give specific numbers.

The assertion that Canadian forces have created a bright spot amid the darkening security picture in southern Afghanistan represents the military's first detailed response to several academic reports in recent months that have described NATO as losing the war.

But then someone on the ground, wearing the same uniform puts the whole thing in context.

Canadian Major-General Marc Lessard, the new commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in the south, said last week that violent incidents in the six southern provinces have increased 50 per cent in the past year.

Among those southern provinces, Kandahar does not enjoy a reputation for better security. In fact, it stood out in a private consultant's report as Afghanistan's most violent province in 2007.

Vigilant Strategic Services Afghanistan (VSSA) counted 1,120 violent incidents in Kandahar during the past year, compared with 363 in neighbouring Helmand province and 105 in Uruzgan province during the same period.

Kandahar continues to be exceptionally troublesome this year, as the VSSA numbers for the first four weeks of 2008 showed a greater number of insurgent-related attacks in Kandahar - 43 incidents - than in any other province.

Along with looking at the level of violence, Gen. Gauthier also suggested that his troops have carved out a foothold for reconstruction and development in Kandahar. But a journalist pointed out that many aid agencies have withdrawn their non-essential staff from Kandahar in recent weeks, fearing a rise in Taliban activity.

Which makes one wonder why Gauthier got out there in the first place. If all anyone has to do is hold up the metrics to shoot his statement full of holes it starts to look as though his effort is a dishonest attempt to spin the situation.

But Gauthier is not a dishonest man.

So, you start asking, "Who put him up to it?"

Note to Gauthier. Disneyland is a great place, but once you're outside the gates, it's California.

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