Thursday, August 6, 2009

Baitullah Mehsud Dead? Now For My Second Wish... Actual Afghanistan Metrics!

I recently wished I would wake up and find out we had hit our exact target with a drone-fired missile in Pakistan. This evening I "awoke" from a Twitter slumber (a cybersecurity warning sign?) to find we actually did kill Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud with a drone strike yesterday--maybe. It seems we won't know for sure until we get in to South Waziristan to collect a DNA sample (quick side note: how do we possibly have another DNA sample to compare it to?), far easier said than done, since we can't do it by drone.
If we did get Mehsud that's great news of course, but before we get too cocky we should take note that militant groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Mehsud's in particular, are like the hydra, and Mehsud apparently has several able deputies willing to step up and take his place.
So for my second wish, I'd like the Obama Administration to come up with actual metrics for success in Afghanistan (and Pakistan). Apparently Congress wants the same thing. After the first (or was it third) "AfPak" review the White House released a white paper promising metrics for success--and has failed not only to announce how we're doing, but what the metrics are. As I've argued repeatedly, you can't measure progress toward a goal you haven't established.
So far the White House has been better at determining what metrics not to use: enemy killed, miles of roads built, bombs defused, tips gathered, etc. Those are helpful steps, but if, according to the Times, we already have "nine broad objectives for metrics to guide the administration’s policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan" why can't we develop metrics now? We need another month or two to continue studying them? Is this a cooking-the-books plan where by the time the actual metrics are up it will be winter and things will look good because fighting is difficult for the militants?
We do need to get the metrics right, but metrics should measure progress toward a goal. Firmly and clearly state the goal, and and tell the social scientist metric creation team to get their academic butts in gear. We've wasted enough time.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Robin,

    Nice Post.I am in total sync with your second wish of having actual metrics to determine the development and stable administration in Afghanistan.

    Though, America is playing a very active role in Middle East and APAC Regions in order to stabilize and bring peace, but somehow this message is either not reached to the general public or is misinterpretated.The reason i feel for this is lack of clear agenda and objectives.As you mentioned in your post, clear and realistic metrics should be laid down to measure the progress and help the war torn countries return to normalization.

    Thank you!

    Warm Regards,Varun
    Citizen of Republic of India