White House defends progress of Afghan forces

That said, the Obama administration remains "committed to winding down [the Afghan] war and will keep to the [withdrawal] timetable" agreed to by U.S. and NATO commanders during the alliance's annual summit in Chicago last May, Carney said during a press briefing while en route Newport News, Va. 

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Carney's comments come amid recent reports claiming the Pentagon and military leaders issued false claims regarding significant drops in violence by Taliban insurgents across Afghanistan for 2012. 

Initial reports on U.S. and NATO combat operations in 2012 reported a 7 percent reduction in attacks against Afghan and allied forces, compared to 2011, according to figures issued by the Pentagon. 

DOD and administration officials were quick to credit that drop in violence to the increasing progress made by Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) on the battlefield.  

Earlier this month, President Obama cited that progress as a key factor in his decision to pull out over half of the 66,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and accelerate the handover of all security operations in the country to those local forces by this spring. 

However, further analysis by the Associated Press on combat statistics from 2011 and 2012 showed no drop in the number of Taliban-led attacks against American, NATO or Afghan forces. 

On Tuesday, DOD Press Secretary George Little downplayed the "regrettable error" in the wartime statistics but noted the mistrake was in no way an attempt by the Pentagon to bury unflattering statistics about the war's progress. 

We have a strong interest in conveying . . . as accurate information as possible . . . to the American people, and the Afghans," Little told reporters at the Pentagon.

"I view this as a limited instance at this stage," he said, noting the figures only reflected a small piece of the overall progress being made in Afghanistan. 

"There's a tendency sometimes to fixate on one metric, whether it's this particular database number or insider attacks or casualties," according to the Little. 

"The complete picture of progress in Afghanistan is much more nuanced," he said. 

For his part, Carney said he had not reviewed the flawed ISAF figures, but noted that in a conflict that has now stretched over the better part of a decade, things sometimes get missed. 

"This is hard work," he said. "It is not work that comes without occasional setbacks."

That work will get tougher as more of that reporting and analysis burden falls to ANSF and other Afghan ministries, Little added. 

"As we transition in partner war with the Afghans, we're going to have to collect information with them, so we need to make sure that our numbers and their numbers are accurate," Little said.  

--updated at 5:16pm