Sunday, July 13, 2008

Always wanted a pony? General Natynczyk will give you a pony.

The Harper government and the senior leadership of the Canadian Forces have been roundly criticized in the past for failing to communicate the truth about conditions in Afghanistan. Boris pointed out that when the senior leadership of government downplay the indicators which suggest that serious problems exist, it is intellectual dishonesty and done with a clear intent to hide the truth from the public.

There was some speculation that, as Rick Hillier stepped down and General Walter Natynczyk took over as Chief of Defence Staff, that there might be a chance to provide unsanitized information surrounding the Afghanistan mission. Well, the speculation is over and it looks like the same Harper standard is to be maintained as General Natynczyk took the opportunity to blow sunshine up everybody's ass in the face of data which makes his statement worth nothing. (Emphasis mine)
The new head of Canada's military has completed a five-day visit to Afghanistan and offered a uniquely cheerful assessment of the security situation that contrasts sharply with the grim data.

The upbeat prognosis from Canada's new chief of defence staff that the violence is holding steady in Kandahar province this year flies in the face of independent analysis documenting a 77 per cent surge in Taliban attacks.

That increased violence was underscored Sunday in a pair of devastating insurgent strikes.

Nine U.S. soldiers were reported killed as militants launched a fiery assault on a remote outpost, and 24 Afghans died in a separate suicide blast on a police checkpoint in the province next to Kandahar.

The comparatively sunny estimation from Gen. Walter Natynczyk after his tour of Afghanistan was also at odds with the increasingly bleak portrait being painted by Canada's allies.

The Pentagon has cited a 40 per cent increase in insurgent attacks in eastern areas of Afghanistan where U.S. forces operate, and notes that it is now losing more soldiers here than in Iraq.

Anyone else want to weigh in?

Britain's defence secretary calls Afghanistan a generational struggle that will require a foreign troop presence for many years.

Local businesspeople say they're increasingly discouraged about the security situation in their city, and fear that economic gains made after 2001 are being wiped away.

As Ottawa continues to be a font of "good news" Afghanistan is spinning into oblivion. Natynczyk has plenty of experience in Afghanistan so he would be fully aware of how things are actually going. That makes this even more curious.

"We're generally along the same lines as we have been the past few years," Natynczyk told a news conference at Kandahar Airfield.

"Looking at the statistics, we're just a slight notch - indeed an insignificant notch - above where we were last year."

Yeah?! I wonder if Natynczyk was in the right country because everyone else in Afghanistan is seeing something completely different.

According to a prominent security firm that compiles insurgent incidents reported by NATO and local security forces, that insignificant notch is actually a 77 per cent increase in attacks from 2007.

Statistician Sami Kovanen at Vigilant Strategic Services Afghanistan says the number of assassinations, bombings, kidnappings, suicide strikes, mine explosions, and mortar assaults by pro-Taliban insurgents through July 6 was 532 incidents this year, compared to only 300 last year.

That coincides with what the United Nations is reporting.

So what do Canadian defence officials have to say when they are shown the numbers? (Hang on to your ass, this gets really good.)

They note that the economy has grown since 2001, far more children are going to school, and human rights have expanded exponentially since the days of the Taliban.

But when asked about security, their optimism appears based on anecdotal evidence; some locals have tipped them off about the location of a roadside bomb, they've seen a traffic jam - a sure sign of activity in Kandahar city, a bazaar has reopened and there are new businesses.

Rrrriiiight! A bazaar opens and a traffic jam happens therefore the economy is expanding. And as for talking to the locals, perhaps those Canadian defence officials should have done a little more of that to see how their observations stacked up.

A well-known Kandahar businessman offers some anecdotal evidence of his own.

"I don't see businesses opening," says the restaurateur, shaking his head when asked if things are getting better in the city.

"All I see are businesses closing."

And as for the exponential increase in human rights, Canadian defence officials and the new Chief of Defence Staff should talk to a few of the organizations that have compiled statistics which tell a completely different story.

From Womankind Worldwide:

Seven years after the US and the UK ‘freed’ Afghan women from the oppressive Taliban regime, our report proves that life is just as bad for most, and worse in some cases. Maternal mortality rates ? one in six women dies in childbirth ? are the highest in the world alongside Sierra Leone. Afghanistan is the only country in the world with a higher suicide rate among women than men.
You can read the juicy details in this (pdf) report. Terri Judd of the Independent read it and reported under the title Women's lives are worse than ever:

The statistics in the report from Womankind, Afghan Women and Girls Seven Years On, make shocking reading. Violent attacks against females, usually domestic, are at epidemic proportions with 87 per cent of females complaining of such abuse – half of it sexual. More than 60 per cent of marriages are forced.
A more recent report from the New England Journal of Medicine this past May paints the same picture: An increase in self-immolation among women because nothing in their lives is improving.

Then this from Canada's new CDS:

The defence chief says he's encouraged that the Taliban no longer even bother trying to muster up forces for conventional battlefield fights because they are crushed every time.

"They are not 10 feet tall," Natynczyk said of the enemy.

"They know that if they take us on directly, they'll either lose or they'll have to flee."

Now there's a dangerous metric. One would expect a full general to be a little more careful tossing that kind of statement around.

The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese never won one major engagement in head-to-head combat with US forces. Not one. Shall we discuss the results?

Mushrooms. Natynczyk is feeding the mushrooms.

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