WASHINGTON — The Afghan government lost almost two percent of the territory it controls during the third quarter of 2018, continuing a blunting of efforts to stabilize the nation and defeat the Taliban, the latest independent report on the war says.
Since the last report in October 2018 by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), Kabul’s control and impact evaporated in seven more districts, continuing a trend that started in 2018. That report said the government now controls 53.8 percent of the districts, with 33.9 percent contested and 12.3 percent under Taliban control, as of Oct. 30, 2018.
“The percentage of the population in districts under Afghan government control or influence—largely stagnant from May 2017 through July 2018 at around 65%—decreased in October to 63.5%,” the report said.
The Pentagon disputed the merit behind the statistics.
“This quarter, DOD (Department of Defense) and RS (Resolute Support) emphasized that RS’s district-stability data is ‘not indicative of effectiveness of the South Asia strategy,’ and reiterated that there is some ‘uncertainty in models that produce [the data]’ and subjectivity in the assessments that underlie it,” the SIGAR report said.
SIGAR is an entity of the Pentagon. The Trump administration has suggested ending the public release of Pentagon reports on Afghanistan.
The report, issued this morning, comes as President Trump has resurrected talk of withdrawing all or some of the 15,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. There are also about 9,000 troops for NATO and non-NATO nations in the country.
U.S. forces entered Afghanistan in October 2011.
It also comes as news reports describe possible end-of-war talks between the U.S. and Taliban envoys — but not including the Afghan government.
An average of 1,742 enemy-initiated attacks (EIA) occurred per month between August 16 and October 31, according to data reviewed by SIGAR That was a 6 percent decrease compared to the average of 1,859 EIA per month reported from January 1–August 15.
“Separately, Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) personnel strength in October 2018 (308,693) fell to the lowest level it has been since the beginning of the RS mission in January 2015,” the report said.
The report noted that on January 24, 2019, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that “about 45,000 Afghan security personnel have been killed since Ghani became president in September 2014. That number indicates that in those roughly 53 months, around 849 Afghan security personnel have been killed per month on average,” the report said.
SIGAR also reported that U.S air assets dropped 6,823 munitions in the first 11 months of 2018. “This year’s figure was already 56% higher than the total number of munitions released in 2017 (4,361), and is more than five times the total released in 2016,” the report said. The highest amounts were in November (841), September (831), and October (769) of 2018, the report said.
During the reporting period, SIGAR investigations resulted in federal indictments of five persons, one criminal information, one guilty plea, three sentencings, and three arrests. In addition, approximately $2.2 million in savings to the U.S. government were realized, as well as $140,000 in criminal fines, restitutions, and forfeitures, the report also said.