Gareth Porter penned a great piece for IPS on the place of civilians in military thinking in Afghanistan:
U.S. officials at a NATO conference in Brussels last Friday were telling reporters that “public relations” are now considered “crucial” to “turning the tide” in Afghanistan, according to an AFP story on Jun 12….
The new emphasis on more aggressive public relations appears to respond to demands from U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan to wrest control of the issue of civilian casualties from the Taliban. In a discussion of that issue at the same conference, Gen. David Barno, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005, said, “We’ve got to be careful about who controls the narrative on civilian casualties.”
U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan “see the enemy seeking to take air strikes off the table” by exaggerating civilian casualties, Barno said. He objected to making civilian casualties an indicator of success or failure, as a CNAS paper has recommended.
“The measure of effectiveness will not be (the number of) enemy killed, it will be the number of Afghans shielded from violence.”
Looks like Barno didn’t get the memo.