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October 14, 2011

What Happened To The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office?

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF/NATO) in Afghanistan is in a media war with civil organizations about its success in Afghanistan. One organization, the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, may have become a casualty in this fight.

In the most recent ISAF spat it responds to a study Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn did for the Afghan Analyst Network. They took a detailed look into ISAF press releases about night raids. Their study was the base for a recent Guardian feature which includes some interactive maps:

The study shows that for every "leader" killed in the raids, eight other people also died, although the raids were designed to be a precise weapon aimed at decapitating the Taliban on the battlefield by removing their commanders.

The report notes that in briefings to the US media, aggregate claims made for the number of Taliban leaders killed or detained over a given period were sometimes much greater than the numbers recorded in the daily press releases.

ISAF shot back against the study essentially saying "Please don't believe what we are putting out in our daily press releases. Our real data looks much better. Trust US!"

Even Anthony Cordesman, the grey eminence at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says ISAF media briefings are "taking on the character of the daily press follies in Vietnam."

But aside from ISAF there are unfortunately few sources for real data of what is happening on the ground in Afghanistan.

Two weeks ago the United Nations reported a 39% increase of violent incidents in Afghanistan compared to 2010. ISAF, which claims that incidents were down, immediately disputed those numbers:

"Following an initial evaluation, ISAF found (the U.N. report) inconsistent with the data that we have collected," ISAF said in a statement.

Another reliable source about incidents in Afghanistan was, until recently, the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO). The organization was founded to provide other NGOs with daily information about local security issues in the country.

Since 2008 ANSO also provided detailed bi-weekly and quarterly reports about security incidents in all Afghan provinces. Supported by EU Humanitarian Aid, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Norwegian Foreign Office it had western and Afghan staff on the ground in five regional and a central office. Its reports were published on its website and through the United Nations' Reliefweb and the Canadian Conflict Monitors.

ANSO reports provided the facts for many critical media reports about the situation in Afghanistan. The last big media echo for ANSO was in late May when its director coined the phrase "perpetually escalating stalemate" for the situation in Afghanistan:

"We anticipate 2011 will be the most violent year since we have been keeping records," said the organization's quarterly report, which was released over the weekend.
Attacks by "armed opposition groups" soared 51 per cent in the first three months of this year when compared with the same period in 2010. The total number of attacks -- 1,102 -- surpassed those conducted in the run up to the 2009 presidential election, which was considered one of the most violent periods in recent memory.

Just like with the recent AAN report and the UN data ISAF/NATO immediately disputed the bad news:

NATO officials downplayed the violence overall, pointing out the Taliban have only been able to conduct small-scale suicide assaults.

Curiously a month after that spat, and amid ISAF attempts to push good news up, ANSO mysteriously vanished. The last report available at Reliefweb is the June 16-30 2011 bi-weekly one. On the last page of the report it says (pdf):

Please note that as of the 1st of July 2011 management of the ANSO project will permanently transfer from Welthungerhilfe (formerly known as GAA) to the International NGO Safety Organisation (INSO).
I take the opportunity to reassure all ANSO stakeholders that the transfer, which has mostly occurred already, will not result in any disruption of normal service. Additionally, there is no requirement to reregister for any of the distribution lists. ANSO will remain named ANSO.

Kind Regards,
Nic Lee
Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO)

Despite the announcement of no "disruption of normal service" and "no requirement to reregister" ANSO vanished immediately. On July 10 2011 its domain name expired. It is now parked by some domain hosting company.

"International NGO Safety Organisation" is established as a company and charity in England and Wales with the domain name registered by Nic Lee. The website displays the ANSO logo but is otherwise "In Development", has no content at all and seems dead. Since the June report no new ANSO/INSO reports have appeared at Reliefweb or anywhere in the media.

(There is also The International NGO Safety and Security Association in Washington DC financed by USAID but that seems to be unrelated.)

One wonders why, in the mids of an ISAF media war against civil organizations reporting on security incident numbers, ANSO, reliable but critical of ISAF numbers, vanished this fast and why, despite its announcement, the important services it provided discontinued.

Posted by b on October 14, 2011 at 14:11 UTC | Permalink


What's nice about this story is that NATO has the MSM stenographers queueing up, pens at the ready, 24/7, to jot down NATO's next dose of idiotic lies and drivel and reproduce it as 'news'.
And it's still not enough. They've become so self conscious about their ongoing and obvious brainlessness that the only way they can feel safe is to start closing down any 'source' which sounds sane.

It might sound dismal, but when crooks get this desperate, the 'day of reckoning' in Afghanistan is just around the corner.
They're dead-in-the-water.
And they, and now we, know it.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Oct 15 2011 3:41 utc | 1

bernhard, you can take what cj chivers at the nyt writes to the bank. we have become good friends and i know he is incapable of publishing a lie. he is on his way back from afgh now, and wrote this shortly before leaving.

Posted by: sharon | Oct 16 2011 7:52 utc | 2

The post above created some echos in twitter sphere and around journalists working on/in Afghanistan.

I now also had some communication with Nic Lee, the director of ANSO/INSO. Some quotes from that:

ANSO is fully intact and operational and has been the whole time. As of July we just reverted to our former policy that only NGO operating in Afghanistan can receive reports so we deactivated our online presence.
We understand that ANSO reports were useful beyond our immediate beneficiaries, so we will endeavor to get some back in the public domain in the near future.
I have no reason to doubt that.

Still it seems a bit unusual to announce a move that "will not result in any disruption of normal service" with such a reduction occurring immediately after issuing that statement.

Thanks to all to clearing this up and responding to the initially voiced concern.

I look forward to renewed regular bi-weekly and quarterly quality reports by ANSO/INSO in the upcoming weeks.

Posted by: b | Oct 16 2011 19:12 utc | 3

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