“I did not need to witness dramatic improvements to be reassured,” he writes, “but merely hoped to see evidence of positive trends, to see companies or battalions produce even minimal but sustainable progress.”
Instead, “I witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level.” He cites the inability of Afghan soldiers and police to handle security in many parts of the country, and the continued widespread influence of the Taliban.
“I’m hardly the only one who has noted the discrepancy between official statements and the truth on the ground,” he says, citing a 2011 report by an Afghan organization which noted that US military assessments routinely differ from those of other international military forces in the country and are “solely intended to influence American and European public opinion ahead of the withdrawal.”
Defense analysts outside the Pentagon, for their part, have long grappled with disparities between official intelligence assessments and what they hear behind closed doors, but some argue that the tendency to “spin” is getting worse as US forces prepare to leave. “Since June 2010, the unclassified reporting the US does provide has steadily shrunk in content, effectively ‘spinning’ the road to victory by eliminating content that illustrates the full scale of the challenges ahead,” writes Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in a piece cited by Davis.