Graphing the Afghanistan Surge Out of Existence

On Wednesday, Jason Leopold tweeted this image that had been released by the White House:

What surge?

What surge?

Marcy quickly responded, “Funny how you can graph surge out of existence.” 

So how did the White House make Obama’s surge of troops into Afghanistan disappear? Consider this graph of troop levels in Afghanistan, where we see the surge of US troops into Afghanistan standing out clearly:

Afghanistan troop levels.

Afghanistan troop levels.

This graph shows what we are used to seeing for Afghanistan, where troop levels were only around 35,000 when Obama took office in 2009 and surged to almost 100,000 in 2010, remaining at that level through most of 2011, as well. So how did the White House hide this surge in their feel-good “bringing home the troops” message? They did it by making the graph include both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here are the troop levels for Iraq:

Iraq troop levels.

Iraq troop levels.

There were around 150,000 US troops in Iraq when Obama took office and by the time his Afghanistan surge (remember, Obama campaigned about Afghanistan being the “good war”) reached its peak in late 2010, Iraq troop levels had dropped to around 50,000 (although Obama waved his hand and declared that these were no longer “combat troops”). So, with a net loss of 100,000 troops  in Iraq during the same time period, the White House was able to make it appear that the surge of about 65,000 troops into Afghanistan never happened.

Maybe next week the White House can graph that pesky inequality of capital distribution out of existence. I’m sure it will make us all feel richer.

9 replies
  1. Don Bacon says:

    from the graph:
    June 2011
    Roughly 150,000 troops
    20 of al Qaeda’s top 30 leaders have been killed, including Bin Laden.
    The story is that al Qaeda had a centralized leadership, and via Obama’s heavy use of force in AfPak and his random drone-killing program, that central leadership has been decimated. Twenty leaders gone — poof! Success!
    General Dempsey recently has said the same thing. It’s the US story line now.

    Al-Qaeda was a centralized organization based out of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The United States and its allies put pressure on the terror organization. Central al-Qaida is a shadow of its former self, but the group has adapted, he said.(news report)

    In fact, the recently-released letters of Usama bin Laden clearly indicate that he had little control of “al-Qaeda” groups in various places. These other groups, according to the letters, are not under any central control.

    But al-Qaeda’s decentralized structure became a hindrance to stopping the offshoots from damaging its brand. One Indonesian jihadist quoted in the documents described the relationship with central al-Qaeda as “a business affiliate, we can ask them (i.e., al-Qa`ida) for an opinion but they have no authority over us. We are free. We have our own funds, our own men.”

    So much for the ‘good war.’ So much for decimating al Qaeda leadership. So much for the group adapting. It’s all BS.
    It’s been known for many years that terrorism:
    (1) is usually created by military action, and
    (2) is best combated by intelligence and police work, not military action.

  2. Les says:

    Over 100,000 contractors are still in Afghanistan and many of them are security contractors like Raymond Davis.

    • Jim White says:

      Thanks. Yes, while Googling around for the best charts to use, I did see one on the number of contractors over time. That is an incredibly important point and one that gets far too little attention, given how many of them there are. A good argument could be made that we’ve just privatized the war rather than ending it.

  3. ess emm says:

    Great point about contractors.

    36,000 contractors in Dec 2007

    74,700 (includes 3,000 armed) in Dec 2009

    108,000 in March 2013. about one-third are US citizens

    • Rayne says:

      And that’s contractors, NOT subcontractors. When I tried to get definitive numbers on subcontractors from the House Armed Services Committee in 2010, all I got was the run-around.


      We don’t actually have any idea how many people who will ultimately receive compensation/payment originating from the U.S. government will remain behind in Afghanistan.

    • OldFatGuy says:

      “As Disraeli said: There are liars, damned liars and government statisticians.”
      That quote works best with the last word left off.
      There are liars, damned liars, and government. Picks up the all the liars that don’f fall into the category of statisticians, like politicians, judges, generals, regulators…..

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