August 12th, 2009
06:44 PM ET
5 years ago

Administration sets benchmarks to measure Afghanistan progress

President Obama's National Security Council is leading the effort to set benchmarks in Afghanistan.
President Obama's National Security Council is leading the effort to set benchmarks in Afghanistan.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Obama administration is creating 50 benchmarks to measure success in Afghanistan at a time when the United States is struggling to beat back a virulent Taliban presence there, senior U.S. officials say.

Crafting of the upgraded benchmarks is nearly completed, the officials said Wednesday, adding they will become a part of larger objectives for the path ahead in Afghanistan set by the administration in March.

The benchmarks were ordered by President Barack Obama and Congress earlier this year and will be monitored by quarterly reports back to Capitol Hill yearly, according to the officials.

The beefed-up metrics are similar to the Bush-era quarterly evaluations for Iraq and Afghanistan currently used by the Pentagon to report security progress to Congress. But the new evaluations will be made up of categories and subcategories that will measure how well objectives were met as opposed to the "yes or no" responses to single issues in the current reports.

The metrics will be based on inputs and outputs to show the full spectrum of a goal, according to one of the officials.

For example, if a goal is to increase security in Afghanistan, there would be an input indicator of the size and strength the Afghan Army with a "sub-indicator" showing how many recruits have gone through basic training and are ready to be deployed. An output indicator for that goal might be how many Afghan-led missions are being undertaken by the Afghan Army, according to the official.

"We need to be able to show what the situation is on the ground and to be able to tell whether or not we are making progress and have some accountability to hold ourselves to showing results," according to a U.S. official. "There are many metrics because they will all come together to give us a sense of how we are doing on these overall objectives."

The evaluation is part of what the White House is calling the Strategic Implementation Plan to keep on top of Afghanistan, according to one of the officials.

Senior officials said the "meat" of the work on the metrics is complete and that a draft has been sent to key members of Congress for their input. The final version is due on Capitol Hill on September 24, according to the officials.

The effort is being led by Obama's National Security Council with input from the Pentagon, the State Department and the intelligence community among other agencies, according to the officials.

The officials said that as the evaluations move forward the metrics could be adjusted to improve input or add or subtract categories to get provide pertinent information.

"The one consistent conversation internally and with Congress was how can we make these representative of what's actually happening on the ground," one of the officials said. "I do expect that they will evolve so that if some of these indicators are not really telling us anything, we may add or modify so we can get an accurate picture."


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