The White House has set out 46 metrics for success
in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which Foreign Policy has acquired. Now
that we know exactly how the Obama administration perceives victory in
the countries and how it is setting out to achieve it, what does that
mean for the Afghan war and for US national security?
- Good Metrics, Better Follow-Through Fred Kagan praised Obama's metrics as "absolutely right" and said they "indicate a continued commitment to a serious and properly-resourced counter-insurgency campaign in Afghanistan." But what really matters, Kagan said, is Obama sticking to those metrics. "The 'metrics' themselves are less important than the fact that the Administration is still pursuing these objectives, despite pressures to abandon them or to define success down," he wrote.
- No Data-Based Measures Foreign Policy's Katherine Tiedemann decried the lack of objective, number-based metrics that can be clearly evaluated. "The omission of these kind of solid, measurable tick marks means that the Obama administration will probably be able to claim that it is making 'progress' in the war effort, no matter what happens on the ground, positive or negative," she wrote. "Conspicuously absent from the ambitious, broad-reaching list, in line with Gen. Stanley McChrystal's population-centric campaign, are any body counts -- American, NATO, coalition, and insurgent alike."
- Seeking Insurgents Before Terrorists Spencer Ackerman described Pakistan-related metrics "way counterinsurgency heavy" as opposed to counterterrorism, though there are some "counterterrorism-relevant" metrics. "The bigger concern is that the measurement doesn’t include any criteria for reaching a judgment, though the document refers to a 'classified annex,' so perhaps that has more detail," he wrote.
- Emphasis on Afghan Governance Spencer Ackerman also noted an emphasis on "bolstering Afghan security capacity ahead of increasing troop levels again." He compared the list favorably to the Iraq metrics written in 2007, "which included such granular measurements as electricity kilowatt-hours and sectarian-caused deaths and so forth. That's what happens when Congress lets the administration write its own benchmarks instead of writing them for it."
- Vietnam 2.0? Kevin Drum called the list "implicitly utopian" and a "hundred-year project," not things the US has a great track record with. "If you wanted to resurrect the ghost of Robert McNamara and convince everyone that Afghanistan is Vietnam 2.0, you could hardly do a better job than this list," he wrote. "I don't doubt for a second that McNamara had something exactly like it in 1965 when he was meeting with LBJ and the Joint Chiefs in the Oval Office."