Cooking the Books: Strategic Inflation of Casualty Reports by Extremists in the Afghanistan Conflict
Islamist extremists in Afghanistan and elsewhere are exaggerating their successes in inflicting casualties on American and other International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) forces. This article quantifies the exaggeration for the month of November 2010, putting the claimed casualty rate at approximately one-half battalion per month. It provides an analysis of how and why this is occurring, and links this extremist strategic communication effort to dominant historical master narratives in the region that may produce sympathy among intended recipients of the messages. The authors argue that these measures undertaken by the extremists can be countered successfully through the use of similar story forms, more timely reporting, use of side-by-side comparisons, and use of similar reporting venues. These steps could challenge the credibility of the Taliban reports, reduce sympathy, and diminish potential recruitment.