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WASHINGTON: The US government misleads its public to justify the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan, routinely using inflated data to justify its stay, The New York Times reported on Saturday. The report compares the US government’s data with those provided by various international aid agencies and with NYT’s own research and concludes that Washington does not want Americans to know the real situation in Afghanistan.

While the US government says the Taliban control or contest 44 per cent of districts in Afghanistan, the NYT report claims that the insurgents actually control or contest about 61pc area. Since 2017, the Taliban have held more Afghan territory than at any stage since the American invasion in October 2001.

The report also notes that so far more than 2,200 Americans have been killed in the Afghan conflict, and Washington has spent more than $840 billion. “The war has become more expensive, in current dollars, than the Marshall Plan, which helped to rebuild Europe after World War II,” the report claims. “That investment has created intense pressure for Americans to show the Taliban are losing and the country is improving.”

The report also disputes the US military’s claim that the Afghan government effectively “controls or influences” 56pc of the country. The NYT, how­ever, says that in many districts, the Afghan government controls only the district headquarters and military barracks, while the Taliban control the rest.

Similarly, on paper, Afghan security forces outnumber the Taliban by the ratio of 10 to 1, or even more. But one third of their soldiers and police officers are “ghosts”, who have left or deserted without being removed from payrolls. Many others are poorly trained and unqualified.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2018