Cooking the Books

by Steven R. Corman

The CSC has an article in the current issue of Studies in Conflict and Terrorism on casualty inflation by the Taliban in the Afghanistan conflict.  The abstract follows, and the full text is available here (subscription).

Cooking the Books: Strategic Inflation of Casualty Reports by Extremists in the Afghanistan Conflict

Chris Lundry, Steven R. Corman, R. Bennett Furlow, & Kirk W. Errickson

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.