Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In failing war, Afghan opposition grows

A British officer from the Defense Intelligence Staff has created a bit of stir with his scathing indictment of the war in Afghanistan. While such damning facts and figures which Major S. N. Miller cites are not new to this blog, one rarely sees them discussed elsewhere. In fact, Miller's is the first commentary I have seen on the current state of Afghan opinion. (E. g., that majorities in the south and east of the country want NATO forces out of their country, while even in Kabul, which has received the lion's share of the economic stimulus accompanying the occupation, some 45% say they want NATO out.)

Miller has a go at his superiors:

British officer launches stinging attack on 'failing' UK strategy
June21 - Telegraph (UK)

By Sean Rayment

A British Army officer has launched a devastating attack on the UK's "failing" strategy in Afghanistan...

Writing in the British Army Review, an official MoD publication, Major SN Miller, stated: "Lets not kid ourselves. To date Operation Herrick [the British codename for the War in Afghanistan] has been a failure"...

In direct contradiction to the view of the defence chiefs and the government, Major Miller added that the much-vaulted British strategy of "winning the hearts and minds" of the Afghan people in Helmand had failed.

Instead, he claimed, the opposite had happened, with polls showing that 23 per cent of the population support the Taliban in the south west of the country, a threefold increase compared with 2008.

He wrote: "Where a year (2008) ago, 81 per cent stated that the Taliban have "no significant support at all" in the area, now only 52 per cent judged this to be the case.

"Just 45 per cent of polled Afghans supported the Nato presence in the south west, down from 83 per cent in the previous year. The often repeated statement that 'the Afghans don't want the Taliban back' is increasingly open to question." ...

"Positive opinion of overall living standards have dropped by 20 points – a remarkably bitter under achievement for a campaign that purported to improve the lives of Afghans." ... (link)
Miller's figures are a little puzzling. His data are similar to, but not identical with, polling data which we looked at in a post a while back. That data doesn't tease out figures for the "south west" by itself, so perhaps Miller has access to a data breakdown which I haven't found. Also, 23% support for the Taliban is a higher figure than I have seen elsewhere.

It is thus possible that Miller is referring to polling data commissioned by the British military. The Canadian Forces has undertaken PSYOPS of just that type:
Afghans' safety concerns spike
Murray Brewster - Winnipeg Sun


... Over the last 18 months, the Canadian military has conducted several public opinion surveys in the war-ravaged city of Kandahar, asking residents about their level of support for the Afghan government, the Taliban and their perception of public safety.

Surveys conducted in late 2007 and early 2008 found 55 per cent of respondents saying they lived in a secure environment, but [Brig.-Gen. Denis] Thompson said that figure is now down to about 25 per cent.

Support for both Karzai's government and the Taliban have remained largely static, he added: Roughly 70 per cent of those asked said they support the government, while the Taliban pulls down between 15 and 20 per cent support at any given time. (link)
  • Opinion poll: Majorities in the east and south of Afghanistan say they oppose the presence of NATO troops in Afghanistan.


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