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Afghans taking charge and changing names

Aug. 12, 2013 - 03:35PM   |  
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WASHINGTON — Military announcements of deaths in Afghanistan — generally terse, bare-bones statements — have undergone a subtle change this summer, reflecting the shift to Afghans for the security of their country.

The date, number of troops killed, general location and the type of attack accompany the most detailed news releases. Others merely state that a service member had been killed.

Until May 26, the assailant, if one were named, was referred to as an insurgent. Now, attackers are called “enemies of Afghanistan.” For example, the military announced Sunday that, “three International Security Assistance Force service members died following an enemies of Afghanistan attack in eastern Afghanistan.”

Col. Christopher Garver, a military spokesman in Kabul, says the change was made to conform with the way Afghan authorities report their troop deaths.

The shift is a welcome one, said Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow and military analyst at the Brookings Institution.

“I like the clarity,” O’Hanlon said. “There has been too much squeamishness at times to identify the Taliban as an actual adversary, not just a misunderstood group of otherwise well-meaning Afghans or Pakistanis.”

Loren Thompson, who analyzes the military for the Lexington Institute and consults with defense contractors, said the change probably won’t amount to much.

“The implication of this language is that members of the Taliban are traitors,” Thompson said. “That may serve the propaganda purposes of the Kabul government, but it won’t help in getting the Taliban to the peace table.”

The three U.S. troops who died Sunday in Afghanistan raised the death toll there to 2,127 since fighting began there in 2001. More than 19,000 troops have been wounded. All U.S. combat forces are scheduled to withdraw from the country by 2014.

There are about 60,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

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