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Kabul continues to lose control over area, people: US report

WASHINGTON: The Afghan government’s control over both its territory and population further eroded in 2018 while the insurgents continued to strengthen their position, says an official US report released.

The office of the Special Inspector General Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which prepared the report for Congress, points out that there’s no evidence to suggest that President Donald Trump’s new South Asia strategy — implemented last year — has been effective in bringing stability to the war-ravaged country.


SIGAR points out that the district-stability data it received from US civil and military officials based in Afghanistan in the last quarter of 2018, “is not indicative of effectiveness of the South Asia strategy”.

Quoting from a report by a mission it sent to Afghanistan in May 2018, SIGAR supports the argument that the United States alone cannot secure or rebuild Afghanistan if it does not get strong support from within the country.

“The US government overestimated its ability to build and reform government institutions in Afghanistan as part of its $4.7 billion stabilisation efforts,” the report says.

“The stabilisation strategy and the programmes used to achieve it were not properly tailored to the Afghan context, and that successes in stabilising Afghan districts rarely lasted longer than the physical presence of Coalition troops and civilians.”

SIGAR prepares a quarterly report on the situation in Afghanistan under a mandate from the US Congress but also shares it with the administration.

Quoting from the district-stability data, SIGAR notes that as of October 22, 2018, control of Afghanistan’s districts, population, and territory became somewhat more contested.

“Afghan government control or influence continued to decline, and insurgent control or influence increased slightly since July 2018.”

The percentage of the population in districts under the Afghan government control or influence remained largely stagnant from May 2017 through July 2018, at around 65 per cent. But it decreased in October to 63.5 per cent.

However, the Afghan government’s control or influence of its districts in October decreased by nearly two percentage points since July to 53.8 per cent.

Population Control: The Afghan government’s control or influence over the population declined this quarter. As of October 22, 2018, 63.5 per cent of the population (21.2 million of an estimated 33.3 million total) lived in areas under Afghan government control or influence, down roughly 500,000 people (and 1.7 percentage points) since the previous quarter.

However, this quarter’s figure represents a slightly smaller decline (0.6 percentage points) in population under government control or influence compared to the same period in 2017.

The insurgency slightly increased its control or influence over areas where 10.8 per cent of the population (3.6 million people) lived, a 0.3 percentage- point increase since last quarter but a decrease from the 12 per cent reported in October 2017.

The number of people living in contested areas increased to 8.5 million people (25.6 per cent of the population), a nearly two percentage-point increase compared to the same period in 2017.

District Control: As of October 22, 2018, there were 219 districts under Afghan government control (74) or influence (145), which is 53.8 per cent of the total number of districts. This represents a decrease of seven government-controlled or influenced districts compared to last quarter and eight since the same period in 2017.

Insurgent control or influence of Afghanistan’s districts increased marginally: there were 50 districts under insurgent control (12) or influence (38) this quarter.

This is an increase of one district since last quarter, but a decrease of eight compared to the same period in 2017.

Now, 12.3 per cent of Afghanistan’s districts are under insurgent control or influence. The number of contested districts — controlled or influenced by neither the Afghan government nor the insurgency — increased by six since last quarter to 138 districts, meaning that 33.9 per cent of Afghanistan’s districts are now contested.