NATO disputes UN stats on Afghan violence

AFP , Thursday 29 Sep 2011

UN statistics showing a 39 percent increase in violence committed in Afghanistan by NATO forces encounters NATO opposition

The NATO-led military in Afghanistan on Thursday publicly challenged UN statistics showing a 39 percent increase in violence in the war-torn country.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said insurgent attacks were down two percent in the first eight months of this year compared to the same period in 2010, and down 17 percent between June and August.

By contrast, the United Nations said the number of security incidents was up 39 percent on the first eight months of last year.

ISAF explained the discrepancy by saying that unlike the UN, it did not define a string of acts including assassinations or attempted attacks as "security incidents."

Almost immediately it faced accusations on microblogging site Twitter of playing down violence levels, more than a year after a "surge" of 30,000 extra American troops was designed to reverse the Taliban momentum.

"The UN category of 'security incidents' includes a wide range of events as contrasted in ISAF's significant activities reports," ISAF spokesman Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson told a press conference in Kabul.

"The UN counts a number of additional event types that ISAF does not include in its definition of security incidents such as cache finds, arrests, assassinations, intimidation and others.

"Approximately 25 percent of the total UN security incidents are event types that ISAF does not include in its definition of security incidents."

In addition, ISAF figures only include attacks launched by insurgents, whereas UN figures include all violent incidents.

Of 971 civilian deaths documented by the United Nations from June to August, it attributed three quarters to insurgent violence and 12 percent to ISAF.

ISAF says 85 percent of civilian casualties are due to insurgents.

The military has recently stepped up its public relations campaign on Twitter, directly engaging with users to put forward its point of view and refute Taliban supporters.

But on Thursday it came under the microscope over the statistics.

Joshua Foust, a fellow at the American Security Project think tank and a commentator on Afghanistan, wrote to ISAF: "Okay, so you're saying ISAF redefines violence in order to say there's less of it. That's what the bottom line is."

ISAF responded: "We've 'redefined' nothing. You're expanding the definition well beyond reason."

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