KABUL (Reuters) - NATO-led forces fighting in Afghanistan on Thursday reported a drop in the number of “security incidents,” a stark contrast to a United Nations report released this week that said the country had become significantly more insecure in 2011.
The number of security incidents recorded by ISAF from January to August this year had decreased 2 percent from the same period a year earlier, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.
Data collected by the U.N., and detailed in a report by its Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said such incidents had leapt 39 percent over the same eight months.
ISAF said the difference was due to different definitions of “security incidents” and some types of insurgent attacks.
ISAF’s definition of security incidents only covered attacks initiated by insurgents and did not include assassinations, friendly fire incidents, its own offensives against militants, weapons seizures or unexploded bombs that were detected.
The data included an estimated 25 percent fewer incidents than those recorded by the U.N., ISAF said.
ISAF said complex or coordinated attacks had decreased 29 percent compared with the same 8 months 2010. It defined complex attacks as the use of at least two types of weapons and classes coordinated attacks as incidents involving prior planning against one or more targets in multiple locations.
The U.N. said complex suicide attacks jumped by half in 2011 for the January to August period.
ISAF figures also covered only incidents involving ISAF personnel and did not cover those involving Afghan security forces or the United States military, unlike the U.N., which covered all forces involved in the conflict.
The U.N. report highlighted challenges facing Afghanistan’s troubled government and the NATO-led coalition, which started its gradual handover of security responsibility to Afghan police and the army in July.
Senior United States commanders and NATO say despite these challenges, they are making substantial progress in their fight against the Taliban.
Carsten Jacobsen, an ISAF spokesperson, denied there was a serious contradiction between its account of the security situation in Afghanistan and that of the United Nations.
“We’re looking at different data, which is because we have different means of reporting and different categories and definitions,” Jacobsen said following a news conference to discuss ISAF data.
He said the figures were compiled for military use, but ISAF would try to meet with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) to try to reach a consensus on reporting.
“This needs talking to UNAMA... and we will get closer to each other in numbers. This doesn’t mean there is controversy or conflict or difference in basic findings,” he said.
ISAF’s data on civilian casualties showed a similar trend to the U.N.. Both attributed around four-fifths of civilian casualties to insurgent attacks, and ISAF said around 70 percent of those were caused by home-made bombs.
ISAF caused 152 civilian deaths for the year to date, a 2 percent increase from the same period of 2010, but airstrikes killed 67 of them, an 18 percent increase.
Other than air strikes, ISAF did not give details about the circumstances under which the civilians were killed.
ISAF said its data showed gains in thwarting attacks with homemade bombs, or Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Some 55 percent of those planted were found before they exploded, marking a 45 percent improvement in ISAF’s detection rate.
Jacobsen said the insurgents’ increased use of bombings was indicative of their weakness, rather than a strategic shift.
“It reflects the insurgents’ desire to engage less with us in combat,” he said.
“They’re using IEDs more, they going for complex attacks to grab media attention. They wanted to terrorize and beat us in our operations and they have not done that in any way.”
Editing by Philippa Fletcher