Afghanistan faces an “existential crisis” after a continuing rise in Taliban attacks that began well ahead of the withdrawal of US and coalition troops from the country, a US government watchdog agency said.
The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconciliation (SIGAR) in a new report released on July 30 said the ANDSF has retaken some districts and the Afghan government still controls all 34 provincial capitals, including Kabul, but from public reporting, the ANDSF appeared surprised and unready and is now on its back foot.
“The overall trend is clearly unfavorable to the Afghan government, which could face an existential crisis if it isn’t addressed and reversed,” said the report.
Afghan forces have faced a surge of attacks since the US-Taliban deal, the report said.
In the 52nd quarterly report to US Congress, SIGAR examines the $144.98 billion US reconstruction effort in Afghanistan.
Citing data from US Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A), SIGAR said that enemy-initiated attacks have increased significantly since the signing of the US-Taliban agreement of February 2020.
The report said that from March to May 2021, USFOR-A reported 10,383 Taliban attacks.
According to the figures, ANDSF reporting of Taliban attacks decreased this quarter due to the train, advise, and assist mission ending; the data ended altogether on May 31, 2021.
During the last quarter, the Taliban launched an offensive against the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, overrunning numerous district centers, but continued to avoid attacking US and Coalition forces, the report said. The Taliban also seized a string of key border crossings with the potential to deny the Afghan government significant customs revenue.
In FY 1399, the report said, the border crossings in Herat, Kandahar, and Kunduz Provinces generated 34.3% of the Afghan government's total customs revenues, according to Afghan government accounting data.
Most units of Afghan forces refuse to execute missions without support from the Afghan National Army Special Operations Corps (ANASOC), according to NATO's Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan, the report said.
All Afghan aircraft have also become strained since the departure of most international troops because of increased requests for close air support, intelligence, reconnaissance missions and aerial resupply, SIGAR said. The aircraft are flying at least 25% over their recommended maintenance intervals, which could have dire consequences, the report added.
SIGAR said the command reported that when ANASOC forces arrive, they are misused to perform tasks intended for conventional forces such as route clearance, checkpoint security, and quick-reaction force.
Five of the seven airframes in the Afghan Air Force experienced decreases in readiness in June alone, according to the report. This coincided with the Taliban offensive and the withdrawal of US and Coalition forces, including aircraft maintenance contractors.
Citing Resolute Support figures, the report said civilian casualties continued to rise this quarter. It adds that the Resolute Support reported 2,035 civilian casualties in April and May 2021, including 705 deaths and 1,330 injuries. This total is nearly as high as the three months from January through March 2021 (2,149 civilian casualties).
Quoting the World Bank report, SIGAR said the Taliban and other anti-government armed groups have escalated their demands on World Bank-funded health services in Afghanistan in recent months. Taliban demands and deteriorating security caused 20% of all health facilities supported by the Bank's Sehatmandi program to close, the report added.
The number of Afghans requiring humanitarian assistance in 2021 has reached approximately half of Afghanistan's total estimated population, SIGAR said, quoting a UN estimation.
The withdrawal of US and Coalition military forces and reductions in other US personnel in Afghanistan complicate the critical task of overseeing US funds still intended for reconstruction programs in that country, the report said. Some $6.7 billion is currently appropriated and awaiting disbursement, with additional billions expected to follow.
The report came after the United Nations said earlier this week that May and June saw the highest number of civilian casualties and injuries in Afghanistan for those two months since systematic documentation began in 2009.