The war in Afghanistan looks bleak as the government loses more control and Afghan security force casualties rise

  • The latest report card for the war in Afghanistan is out, and the situation does not look good.
  • The Afghan government’s control over territory has dropped to 55.5 per cent, according to quarterly report from the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR).
  • And casualties among the Afghan security forces have been hitting record highs, the US watchdog revealed.

Amid mounting casualties among the Afghan security forces, a new report assesses that the Afghan government is steadily losing control of its territory to the Taliban.

Nearly half of the country is either controlled or contested by Taliban insurgents, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) wrote in its quarterly report to Congress.

The Afghan government only controls or influences 55.5 per cent of the country’s various districts, the lowest level since SIGAR began receiving relevant data three years ago, the report explained, noting a decrease of 1.2 per cent over the past year.

The local government controlled 72 per cent of the country in November 2015. Taliban control and influence sits at 12.5 per cent, and roughly a third of Afghanistan is contested.

Territorial losses come as the Afghan security forces suffer heavy casualties in the fight against terrorist and militant forces.

Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis revealed just how serious Afghan security force casualties have been in recent months during a discussion at the United States Institute of Peace Tuesday.

“The Afghan lads are doing the fighting, just look at the casualties,” he explained. “Over 1,000 dead and wounded in August and September.”

SIGAR reports that Afghan National Defence and Security Forces casualties between May and October were the highest they have ever been over the same period in previous years. During a Taliban assault on Ghazni in August, the insurgents killed at least 100 Afghan security forces.

Afghan security forces totaled 312,328 in July, the lowest figure since at least 2012, the report revealed, noting that the total strength of the security forces is down 8,827 from last year. The latest figures are well below the target strength of 352,000.

Between July 18 and October 15, the US lost four military personnel. Three were killed in action, while the fourth lost his life in a non-combat incident.

Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, the top US commander in Afghanistan, told NBC Tuesday that “this is not going to be won militarily,” adding that his assessment is “the Taliban also realises they cannot win militarily,” leaving only a political solution.

Last month, Miller narrowly escaped an attack that left two senior Afghan leaders dead. During a meeting at the governor’s compound in Kandahar, a Taliban insurgent masquerading as one of the governor’s bodyguard opened fire on the attendees.

The local head of police and the intelligence chief were both killed in the attack. The governor was wounded, along with a NATO contractor and two Americans, one of whom was a US general. Miller managed to escape unscathed. Although the Taliban identified the commander as a target, Miller and other US officials insist that this was an Afghan-on-Afghan attack.

In this quarter alone, the Afghan security forces incurred 42 casualties (28 killed and 14 wounded) as a result of insider attacks. At least two US forces have been killed in insider attacks in recent months.