PENTAGON - U.S. General John Nicholson, the commander of international forces in Afghanistan, said the biggest challenges facing Afghanistan next year are leadership and corruption in the Afghan military.
“These do plague some portions of the Afghan security forces, and what it has led to is a poor sustainment of soldiers in the field," Nicholson said at the Pentagon Friday.
The general said ineffectiveness and corruption in the supply system have left some Afghan soldiers on outposts without water, food or the ammunition they need to fight.
Nicholson said he has spoken "very frankly" with Afghan military and government leaders about these problems and will focus on implementing solutions, including the replacement of corrupt leaders, during the winter campaign.
Afghan forces still have control over roughly two-thirds of the population, but the numbers have dropped slightly, from 68 percent to 64 percent, since September.
Nicholson said the decrease did not equate to more Taliban control, but more population in "contested" areas. He said the Taliban still controls less than 10 percent of the population.
He said Afghan forces have prevailed against attacks from the Taliban.
The Taliban has lost its ability to "mass" for attacks, and have carried out more small-scale attacks on checkpoints “in attempt to isolate the cities and create panic,” he added.
Nicholson said the militant group had made eight attempts since August to take provincial capitals inside Afghanistan.
“Every one of these attempts failed,” he said.
In comparison to 2015, the number of high-profile attacks was lower across the country. In Kabul, for example, the Afghan government reported 18 high-profile attacks last year and 12 high-profile attacks this year, a one-third reduction.