As Taliban gains increase U.S. military stops releasing assessments about Afghan war

David Pugliese – Ottawa Citizen May 1, 2019

As the Taliban and other insurgents appear to be gaining more of the upper hand in Afghanistan, the U.S. military has stopped releasing its assessments of the control and influence both the Afghan government and enemy forces have in the country.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the US government watchdog on the Afghanistan war, pointed out Wednesday that while the military assessments had their limitations, they were the only unclassified data that consistently provided a picture of the security situation on the ground. “What we are finding is now almost every indicia, metric for success or failure is now classified or nonexistent,” John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction or SIGAR, recently told journalists. “The classification in some areas is needless.”

The reports have also become an important tracking tool for territorial and population control by the Taliban, noted the U.S. website, Defense One.

Sopko warned in November that Taliban control in Afghanistan was on the increase. At that point the Afghan government controlled or had influence in 55 per cent of the country’s districts. That level was lowest SIGAR had since it began keeping tabs on those statistics starting in 2015.

“While the data did not on its own indicate the success or failure of the South Asia strategy, it did contribute to an overall understanding of the situation in the country,” the latest SIGAR report pointed out.

The watchdog’s report issued Wednesday noted the following:

— Enemy-initiated attacks rose considerably: the monthly average attacks from November 2018 through January 2019 increased by 19% compared to the monthly average over the previous reporting period (August 16 to October 31, 2018).

— The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) documented 10,993 civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2018, an overall increase of 5% compared to 2017. The number of civilians killed (3,804), increased by nearly 11% compared to 2017 and was the highest number recorded since UNAMA began recording civilian-casualty data in 2009.

— Civilian casualties from attacks deliberately targeting civilians by Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) more than doubled from 843 in 2017 to 1,871 in 2018, mainly from suicide and other attacks, including deliberate sectarian-motivated attacks against the minority Shi’a Muslim population.

— In 2018, UNAMA reported 1,015 total casualties as the result of aerial operations in Afghanistan, including 536 deaths. During the same period, Resolute Support reported 183 total casualties, including 71 deaths, as a result of aerial operations in Afghanistan.

— USFOR-A reported that the number of Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) casualties sustained between December 1, 2018, and February 28, 2019, were approximately 31% higher than the same period one year prior.

— AC-208 pilot training classes in the United States were dissolved due to the number of Afghan trainees that were going absent without leave (AWOL). Over 40% of the students in the training went AWOL. The remaining students have been pulled back to complete their training in Afghanistan.


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