True Believer: Petraeus and the Mythology of Afghanistan
By Gareth Porter
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
This is the conclusion of a four-part series, "How Petraeus Created the Myth of His Success." Read Part One, "How the Myth Began - Petraeus in Mosul," Part Two, "How Petraeus Quietly Stoked the Fires of Sectarian War Without Getting Burned," and Part Three, "Petraeus Rising: Managing the "War of Perceptions" in Iraq."
Managing the "war of perceptions" in Afghanistan ultimately proved more difficult for David Petraeus than it had in Iraq.
As the raids were increased by orders of magnitude, the number of civilian casualties also exploded. From May 2010 to February 2011, SOF teams fired shots in 1,256 raids out of a total of 6,282 raids, killing 2,844 "insurgents," according to data released by ISAF. But with rare exceptions, night raids target a single individual in their homes only, so those figures indicate that as many as 1,500 people killed in the raids were civilians who had not been targeted.
The targeting was based on intelligence that was so deeply flawed that the SOF killed a former Taliban who had become a human rights investigator working with the European Union in the firm conviction that he was in fact the Taliban's shadow government for Takhar Province - merely because the man's cell number showed up on the list of those with whom the real shadow governor had been in contact. The intelligence officials deciding who should be targeted had not bothered to make the most obvious inquiries to check their cockeyed theory that the two were one and same man.
A high proportion of the targets of raids were simply people whose cell phone numbers showed up in the US surveillance system because of contact with someone else suspected of being an insurgent. As he had done in Mosul in 2003, Petraeus authorized a huge increase in the relatively less violent "cordon and knock" raids on only the thinnest evidence of connection with the insurgency, as well as raids targeting individuals identified as Taliban officers which involved killing the men in their beds next to their wives.