So this is what “fragile and reversible” progress looks like in Afghanistan: violence is up 51 percent since this time last year, thanks to a hurricane of insurgent suicide attacks, assassinations and bombs, undermining U.S. military claims that it’s breaking the momentum of the Taliban.
The closest thing the war has to a report card comes in the form of a new quarterly report from the United Nations. And the American troop surge appears to be dangerously close to flunking. According to the U.N., not only is violence on the rise, but so are civilian casualties. Compared to the spring of 2010, civilian deaths and injuries are up 20 percent, with 1,090 dead and 1,860 wounded. Over 435,000 Afghans are displaced by the war, a 4 percent rise.
The U.N. report directly contradicts an emerging talking point in the U.S. military. Lt. Gen. John Allen, the incoming war commander, told a Senate panel on Tuesday that “violence is five percent lower so far this year in comparison to last year,” (.pdf) a statistic that David Ignatius attributes to Gen. David Petraeus in his Wednesday column. Not only is violence not going down, if the U.N. is to believed, it’s going way up — far from a war effort that’s arresting Taliban momentum.