There’s precious little independent information detailing the thousands of operations U.S. forces undertake in Afghanistan to kill Taliban leaders or take their soldiers off the battlefield. So two researchers decided to mine the press releases the NATO military command announces about those missions for hidden patterns. And The Guardian even plotted their findings on a Google map.
Analysts Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn combed their inboxes for 22 months’ worth of press releases from the NATO command, known as ISAF, dating from Sept. 1, 2009. They couldn’t exactly draw conclusions about whether all the kill-or-capture missions announced in the press releases have worked. But they could determine how ISAF marks success. The raids detailed in the ISAF releases show a “steady general increase in reported kills and captures each month until June 2011,” Strick van Linschoten and Kuehn write. The subsequent decline might be caused by an “unsustainable pace of capture?or?kill operations and the departure of General Petraeus.”
But the researchers found more than that. They were able to get a sense of where the raids occur; how frequently they took place; and how many Afghans — insurgent and civilian — they affected. To represent that data, they turned to the Guardian’s Simon Rogers and his Data Blog.
Using data tools like Tinderbox and Google Maps overlays, the team created a series of visual representations of the raids’ impact. Rogers and Strick van Linschoten were kind enough to share the map above with Danger Room. Toggle over it, and you’ll get a province-by-province breakdown of how many people were killed and detained; how often operations to kill or capture them took place; and what the ratio is of suspected insurgents iced and nabbed.
What does this all mean for a 10-year old war? There isn’t exactly data to resolve that question, so you’ll still have to draw your own conclusions.