US Stops Giving Militant Death Tolls in Afghanistan

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Agence France Presse

US Stops Giving Militant Death Tolls in Afghanistan

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The US military in Afghanistan has stopped releasing figures showing how many militants have been killed in fighting with US-led forces, officials said Friday. "Indicating the number of insurgents killed has little relevance to impacting the lives of Afghans," Navy Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, seen here in 2008, said in an email to AFP.

WASHINGTON - The US military in Afghanistan
has stopped releasing figures showing how many militants have been
killed in fighting with US-led forces, officials said Friday.

"Indicating
the number of insurgents killed has little relevance to impacting the
lives of Afghans," Rear Admiral Gregory Smith said in an email to AFP.

"In
fact, if that were the only purpose and metric, you would likely only
extend the time it takes to bring about an end to the insurgency."

Smith
sent an order last month to NATO and US forces blocking the military
from releasing details on militant death tolls and providing estimates
instead.

"The goal of security operations in an insurgency is to
separate the people from the insurgents. Without access to the people,
the insurgents lose their main center of gravity," he said.

Smith,
who is revamping communications for the US military and the NATO-led
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, stressed
US-led military operations were not aimed at killing insurgents.

The
objective was to "clear areas of insurgency and give the people a
chance to reconnect with official forms of governance and to rebuild
their lives, socially and economically."

The move comes as
President Barack Obama's administration is shifting the US war strategy
in Afghanistan toward enhancing the safety of civilians, seeking to
stem support for the deadly Taliban insurgency.

Colonel Greg
Julian, the outgoing spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan, said he
had previously released militant death tolls in order to counter
propaganda by the Taliban and its Al-Qaeda allies.

"In the past,
I gave specific details of what took place during engagements to
counter insurgent lies and exaggerations," he said in an email.

"The
insurgent lying tactic is now widely understood and it is far better to
focus on the improvements to security and quality of life improvements
for Afghans than the number of insurgents killed."

Defense
Secretary Robert Gates said on Sunday the US military and its allies
must show progress in Afghanistan by mid-2010 to avoid public
perception that the conflict has become unwinnable.

Victory was a
"long-term prospect" under any scenario and the United States would not
win the war within a year, Gates told the Los Angeles Times.

Obama
has dispatched 21,000 fresh troop reinforcements to Afghanistan as
international forces battle a mounting Taliban insurgency. By year's
end, some 68,000 US forces are set to operate in Afghanistan.

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