May 1, 2019

U.S. to stop updating public about Taliban control in Afghanistan

Afghan security forces near the site of a Taliban attack in Ghazni in April 2018. Photo: Akeria Hashimi/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. military has ended its long-running assessments of how much territory in Afghanistan is controlled by the Taliban, the latest move to limit the information the American public has about the 17-year-old war, per the NY Times.

Why it matters: John Sopko, the U.S. inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, told the Times the move was "like turning off the scoreboard at a football game and saying scoring a touchdown or field goal isn't important." He added that it will ensure "the only people who don't know what's going on and how good or bad a job we're doing are the people paying for it — the American taxpayers."

On the one hand: A U.S. military spokesman, Col. Dave Butler, told the Times the assessments were "subjective" and "did little to serve our mission of protecting our citizens and allies."

On the other: Bill Roggio, an expert at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told the Times that the assessments "highlight failure": "Make no mistake, if these assessments showed the Afghan military retaking lost ground, the U.S. military would continue to publish the information."

What to watch: A new round of talks between the U.S. and the Taliban began today in Qatar. They're aimed at securing a peace agreement, but have been criticized by Afghan officials who are wary of being left out of negotiations over the country's future.

Go deeper: 17 years later, Americans tend to consider Afghanistan a failure.

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