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US Agency Says Afghan Forces Lost Territory in 2016

  • Ayaz Gul

An Afghan National Army soldier holds a position while patrolling the village of But Khak on the outskirts of Kabul, May 15, 2012.

An Afghan National Army soldier holds a position while patrolling the village of But Khak on the outskirts of Kabul, May 15, 2012.

The Afghan government lost control of approximately 5 percent of the country's districts in the first five months of this year, and high attrition within the national army is affecting the experience level of front-line troops, a United States federal oversight agency reported Friday.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reported that “approximately 65.6 percent of the country’s districts are under Afghan government control or influence as of May 28, 2016, a decrease from the 70.5 percent reported as of January 29, 2016."

The agency noted that despite U.S. expenditures of nearly $70 billion to build and sustain the Afghan Defense and National Security Force (ANDSF), the force that is intended to stand on its own by now still needs help and struggles to retain soldiers. "Annually almost one-third of the force is lost to attrition," the agency said.

The assessment attributed to the U.S. military is part of SIGARs latest quarterly report that is submitted to the U.S. Congress.

Of Afghanistan's 407 districts, 268 districts were under government control or influence, 36 districts (8.8 percent) within 15 provinces were under Taliban insurgent control or influence, and 104 districts (25.6 percent) were “at risk,” according to the audit.

Nine districts of the 36 are directly under the control of the Taliban, with a total population of more than 524,000, it added. The report identified the districts in Helmand, Badakhshan, Ghazni, Sar-e-Pul and Zabul provinces.

The Taliban have been exceptionally active in 2016, particularly after launching their annual spring offensive “Operation Omari,” SIGAR noted. In its mid-year report released earlier this week, the United Nations noted a 4 percent increase in civilian casualties in Afghanistan.

The SIGAR report also revealed that war-torn Afghanistan has one of the lowest rates of electrification in the world, with only about one in three Afghans connected to a power grid. Washington has since 2002 obligated nearly three billion dollars for power-sector projects in Afghanistan.

The United States and other donors will contribute nearly $5 billion in the 2013–2018 period to develop Afghanistan’s energy resources, SIGAR said.

However, it added, delivering electricity to the poor and war-torn country has proven almost as much of a struggle as delivering security.

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