OMAR SOBHANI/REUTERS/NewscomA new report is out from the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR)-the government's watchdog for the war-and its findings paint an ugly picture: despite billions spent and thousands of US lives lost, Afghanistan is facing worsening violence and instability.
Afghan forces and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and US -led coalition troops continued in mopping-up operations as the Taliban militant group has been attempting to take territory and consolidate its positions ahead of winter in the Central Asian country. However, it reported that only 55.5 percent of the total 407 districts were under government control or influence, the lowest level since SIGAR began tracking district control in 2015.
In terms of the Afghan population itself, Kabul controls or influences 65.2 percent, the same amount as a year ago.
Afghanistan is experiencing a situation of political and social instability and insecurity due to the intervention of United States troops and its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies. The balance - 132 districts - are considered "contested" between the government and insurgent groups.
General John Nicholson, who is now retired but at the time was head of Resolute Support, said in November 2017 that the Afghan security forces would expand control of the population to 80 percent over the next two years. General Joseph Votel, head of US Central Command had said earlier that Afghan casualties were increasing from a year ago.
The United Nations recently revealed figures that show the growing spiral of violence in the country, where 2,798 civilians were killed and 5,252 were injured in the first months of 2018.
In a bulleted list of "lessons learned", the SIGAR report notes that "the US government greatly overestimated its ability to build and reform government institutions in Afghanistan" and USA aid-far from reducing violence or strengthening Afghan governance-often "exacerbated conflicts, enabled corruption, and bolstered support for insurgents".
SIGAR also stated in its report that the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) had 312,328 personnel in July 2018 (not including civilians), down 1,914 personnel since last quarter and down 8,827 personnel since the same period a year ago.
Earlier this week, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that more than 1,000 "Afghan lads" had been killed or wounded in August and September only.
SIGAR added that data show the Afghan forces "made minimal or no progress in pressuring the Taliban over the quarter".
SIGAR quoted the Resolute Support mission as saying the average number of casualties among Afghan security forces between May 1 and October 1 was "the greatest it has ever been during like periods".
The report does however highlight "some successes" in counter-terrorism operations against the Islamic State group's affiliate in Afghanistan, including in August when 250 jihadists surrendered to Afghan security forces in Jowzjan province.