Preventing the Taliban and other militants from expanding their control of the countryside will continue to be a challenge for Afghan security forces, says a US federal watchdog.
In a quarterly report on Monday, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said casualties among Afghan forces in the war against the insurgents were shockingly high.
Conflict-related casualties had hit an all-time high, with the Taliban still controlling a third of the country, where reconstruction projects had been hindered by corruption among Afghan nationals and US contractors, it added.
The report said American taxpayers had paid $48 million in the last year alone to fund ammunition for Afghan security personnel, in addition to $32.3 billion for governance and economic development as of March 2017.
Washington has spent more than $11 billion so far on other weapons, communications, aircraft, and vehicles for the Afghan forces. The cost to US taxpayers might not decline over the coming years, SIGAR said.
The Afghan National Army (ANA) continues to take heavy casualties in its fight against the Taliban, something that has left the troops incapable of running the operations necessary to wrest back control of the lost territory.
“A dangerous and stubborn insurgency controls or exerts influence over areas holding about a third of the Afghan population,” SIGAR noted. “Heavy casualties and capability gaps limit the effectiveness of Afghan soldiers and police. Opium production stands near record levels.”
The UN recorded 5,160 security incidents between November 18, 2016, and February 14, 2017, representing a 10% increase from the same period the previous year, and a 3% increase from the same period in 2014-2015. The number of security incidents rose by 30 in January 2017 to 1,877, the highest number ever recorded for that month by the UN.”
The war-torn country continued producing a massive amount of opium, giving rise to a profitable drug trade that funded the Taliban’s war effort, the report said, saying traffickers were giving terrorists weapons, money, and support. Afghanistan produced roughly 4,800 metric tons of opium in 2016 alone.
In the first six weeks of 2017, 807 security forces personnel were kille, while mass casualty attacks against civilian targets also increased. The report cited an attack that killed 50 people at the Afghanistan’s largest military hospital on March 8.