Another official report says “things just getting worse” in Afghanistan

The other side of “Coin”.

We do not support the [counter-insurgency] perspective that this constitutes "things getting worse before they get better", but rather see it as being consistent with the five-year trend of things just getting worse.

That's the verdict of a report from the respected think tank the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, which monitors trends in violence in Afghanistan on behalf of aid organisations, as reported in today's Guardian.

The ANSO report also reveals that June brought a record number of Taliban attacks -- up 51 per cent on the previous year to 1,319 operations. Meanwhile, despite Stanley McChrystal's "protect-the-population" counter-insurgency (or "Coin") motto, and the Coinistas' obsession with winning Afghan hearts and minds using not-so-original "population-centric" tactics, the number of civilians killed by both sides in this conflict rose by 23 per cent.

The response from our former man in Kabul, who now speaks on behalf of Nato? From the Guardian article:

On Saturday Mark Sedwill, Nato's ambassador in Kabul, said the increase in violence this year had always been expected and it was a sign that the coalition was "taking the fight to the Taliban".

I wonder if William Hague has clocked yet that his department is filled with fantastists.

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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To stop Jeremy Corbyn, I am giving my second preference to Andy Burnham

The big question is whether Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper will face Jeremy in the final round of this election.

Voting is now underway in the Labour leadership election. There can be no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn is the frontrunner, but the race isn't over yet.

I know from conversations across the country that many voters still haven't made up their mind.

Some are drawn to Jeremy's promises of a new Jerusalem and endless spending, but worried that these endless promises, with no credibility, will only serve to lose us the next general election.

Others are certain that a Jeremy victory is really a win for Cameron and Osborne, but don't know who is the best alternative to vote for.

I am supporting Liz Kendall and will give her my first preference. But polling data is brutally clear: the big question is whether Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper will face Jeremy in the final round of this election.

Andy can win. He can draw together support from across the party, motivated by his history of loyalty to the Labour movement, his passionate appeal for unity in fighting the Tories, and the findings of every poll of the general public in this campaign that he is best placed candidate to win the next general election.

Yvette, in contrast, would lose to Jeremy Corbyn and lose heavily. Evidence from data collected by all the campaigns – except (apparently) Yvette's own – shows this. All publicly available polling shows the same. If Andy drops out of the race, a large part of the broad coalition he attracts will vote for Jeremy. If Yvette is knocked out, her support firmly swings behind Andy.

We will all have our views about the different candidates, but the real choice for our country is between a Labour government and the ongoing rightwing agenda of the Tories.

I am in politics to make a real difference to the lives of my constituents. We are all in the Labour movement to get behind the beliefs that unite all in our party.

In the crucial choice we are making right now, I have no doubt that a vote for Jeremy would be the wrong choice – throwing away the next election, and with it hope for the next decade.

A vote for Yvette gets the same result – her defeat by Jeremy, and Jeremy's defeat to Cameron and Osborne.

In the crucial choice between Yvette and Andy, Andy will get my second preference so we can have the best hope of keeping the fight for our party alive, and the best hope for the future of our country too.

Tom Blenkinsop is the Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland