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Nato accused of misleading reports

Nato has been accused of misleading the public over success in Afghanistan by saying operations involving only its troops are led by local forces.

The report by a Kabul-based think tank cuts to the heart of a public perception battle being waged in Afghanistan, where international troops are eager to highlight successes by Afghan forces and to downplay their own role as Nato draws down forces and hands over security to Afghan control.

The United States and other nations that make up the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have already started pulling out troops with the goal of putting Afghans in charge of countrywide security by the end of 2014. The alliance wants to show that Afghans are up to the task so that the country does not descend into civil strife after 10 years of a Nato-led war against Taliban and al Qaida militants.

"ISAF's desire to present accounts of events as favourably as possible is to be expected, but sometimes this slips into propaganda, half-truths and, occasionally, cover up," said British analyst Kate Clark, the author of the report by the Afghan Analysts Network.

As the drawdown of foreign forces progresses, the international troops are expected to transition more and more into the role of supporting Afghan forces, rather than leading them.

A draft strategic partnership pact agreed by the US and Afghanistan earlier this week said after 2014, US forces will only fight in Afghanistan with the government's approval.

In the transition, one phrase - "Afghan-led" - has become increasingly prevalent in Nato and US news releases describing operations.

The report alleges that the term has been so loosely applied that it has, in at least once instance, been used for an assault conducted entirely by US troops.

A spokesman for US forces said it was still appropriate to call the response "Afghan-led" because Afghan forces were overseeing the entire response that day.

"Afghan-led is Afghan-led if we're only providing a level of minimal support and they're the ones making the decisions to do a particular response," he said.

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