The U.S government's Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), said in its latest quarterly report, issued on Tuesday, that 6,785 Afghan security force members were killed between January 1 and November 12 last year, with another 11,777 wounded.
Going on previous reports, this is an increase of about 35 percent against the same period in 2015, when some 5,000 security forces were killed.
The SIGAR report stated that the “majority of ANDSF casualties continue to be the result of direct-fire attacks, with IED explosions and mine strikes accounting for much lower levels of casualties.”
SIGAR’s analysis of the most recent data provided by U.S Forces in Afghanistan (USFOR-A) suggests that the security situation in the country has not improved this quarter.
The numbers of Afghan security forces are decreasing, while both casualties and the number of districts under insurgent control or influence are increasing, the report stated.
USFOR-A found that about 57.2 percent of the country’s 407 districts are under Afghan government control or influence as of November 15, 2016 – a 6.2 percent decrease from the 63.4 percent reported the previous quarter ending late August, and a nearly 15 percent decrease since November 2015.
Of the 407 districts of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, 233 districts were under government control (83 districts) or influence (150), 41 districts (in 15 provinces) were under insurgent control (9) or influence (32), and 133 districts were “contested.”
The report describes contested districts as having “negligible meaningful impact from insurgents,” contending that neither the insurgency nor the Afghan government maintains significant control over these areas.
USFOR-A identified the regions/provinces with the largest percentage of insurgent-controlled or -influenced districts as Uruzgan province, with five out of six (83.3 percent) of its districts under insurgent control or influence, and Helmand with eight out of 14 (57.1 percent) of its districts under insurgent control or influence.
The region with the most districts under insurgent control or influence is in northeast Helmand province and northwestern Kandahar province, and includes the Helmand/Kandahar border area, Uruzgan province, and northwestern Zabul.
This region alone accounts for 16 of the 41 districts (or 31.7 percent) under insurgent control or influence.
The report states that USFOR-A attributes the loss of government control or influence over territory to the ANDSF’s strategic approach to security prioritization, identifying the most important areas that the ANDSF must “hold” to prevent defeat, and focusing less on areas with less strategic importance.
“This is an insurgency that still enjoys sanctuary and support from outside the country; that’s very difficult for the Afghans to defeat,” said General John Nicholson, Commander Resolute Support and U.S Forces-Afghanistan in an earlier interview.
However, USFOR-A noted that the insurgents failed in their eight attempts to capture a provincial capital this year.
SIGAR stated that at least 9.2 million people, almost one-third of the Afghan population, "live in areas that are contested," but that about 2.5 million people live under the control or influence of the insurgency, down from 2.9 million over the past three months. The majority, 20.4 million (63.5%), live in areas controlled or influenced by government, the report stated.
Meanwhile, head of Kunduz provincial council Amruddin Wali accused government of incompetence in terms of carrying out successful military operations.
“This incompetence by government and its unsuccessful military operations paved the ground for militants to expand their territory and increase fear among the people,” Wali stated.
“This would have bad consequences. For instance, Taliban took control of Musa Qala and then the war extended to Nad Ali, Marjah and southern districts of Helmand,” deputy head of Helmand provincial council Abdul Majid Akhundzada said.
Commenting on the report, Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said: “We managed to foil the enemy’s goals and we thwarted their plans. The reason behind an increase in our casualties in 2015 and 2016 was that we carried out the operations independently.”