Julian E. Barnes
The Los Angeles Times
July 24, 2009

[efoods]Military officials in Afghanistan have ordered a halt to the practice of releasing the number of militants killed in fighting with American-led forces as part of an overall strategy shift and an effort to portray to the Afghan people a different U.S. approach to the war.

The decision has triggered a quiet but fierce debate among military officers, one with echoes of the U.S. experience in Vietnam, when military officials routinely exaggerated body counts and used them as a measure of success — a practice that proved counterproductive.

Under the new order, issued by Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, the military will not release specifics on how many insurgents are killed in fighting and will instead provide estimates.

The change is part of a strategy to make the Afghan people feel safer, and it comes as U.S. commanders are instituting measures to avoid civilian casualties.

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