Afghan Losses ‘Shockingly High’ as Taliban Gain Ground

The Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan has continued to inflict “shockingly high” casualties on government forces and brought more territory under its control or influence, a U.S. government agency said Monday.

The quarterly assessment by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR follows the April 19 Taliban attack on a major military base in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.  The assault killed more than 140 Afghan soldiers, though multiple independent sources reported a much higher death toll.

SIGAR’s report coincided with the beginning of the yearly Taliban “spring offensive.”   The insurgent group captured another northeastern district during over the weekend and is threatening to seize others elsewhere in the country.   

“Afghanistan remains in the grip of a deadly war.  Casualties suffered by the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) in the fight against the Taliban and other insurgents continue to be shockingly high: 807 were killed in the first six weeks of this year,” the U.S. agency noted.

About 6,785 Afghan soldiers and police personnel were killed while another 11,777 were wounded in the first 11 months of 2016, according to SIGAR, adding the Afghan government has not provided the U.S. military with data for the last seven weeks of that year.

Progress assessment

Approximately, 59.7 percent of the country’s 407 districts were under Afghan government control or influence as of February 20, 2017, showing a slight 2.5 percentage point increase from the last quarter in mid-November, the U.S. agency reported Monday.

“The number of districts under insurgent control or influence also increased by four this quarter to 45 districts” in 15 Afghan provinces, according to SIGAR.  It shows a slight increase in the number of the country’s total districts under insurgent control or influence from about 10 percent to 11.1 percent.

SIGAR is tasked to review tens of billions of dollars the United States has spent or is allocating to help rebuild war-shattered Afghanistan.  The quarterly reports it compiles provide details about whether or not progress is being made and to highlight security challenges as well as rampant corruption threatening the reconstruction efforts.

U.S. military officials have warned 2017 would be a tough year for Afghan security forces battling the Taliban and other insurgents.  The fighting has also inflicted heavy losses among civilians.  Conflict-related civilian casualties stood at more than 11,400, including around 3,500 deaths in 2016, according to the United Nations.  The U.N. mission in Afghanistan has documented the deaths of more than 700 civilians in the first quarter of 2017.

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