WASHINGTON — The number of Taliban and other “enemy-initiated attacks” in Afghanistan have gone down in overall levels from 2018 but are on a steady increase during 2019, the inspector general for Afghanistan said.
In the quarterly report issued Wednesday, the Special Inspector for Afghanistan (SIGAR) also said Afghan forces increased their efforts against the Taliban even as the number of Afghan forces continues to shrink.
“The increase in offensive operations was primarily driven by Afghan Special Security Forces (ASSF) missions focused on disrupting the Taliban’s freedom of movement and defending key terrain, such as major population centers, critical infrastructure, entry points into Afghanistan, and communication lines between population centers,” the SIGAR report said.
That surge came in the face of dramatic drops in Afghan troop strength, the report said.
According to the report, there are 180,869 Afghan National Army (ANA) forces and 91,596 Afghan National Police (ANP) personnel enrolled and accounted for as of May 25, 2019. This is about 10,000 ANA fewer and 25,000 ANP fewer than the numbers reported to SIGAR last quarter.
This quarter’s 272,465 number puts the total force at 77.4% — and 79,535 personnel short. — of its goal strength of 352,000, the report said.
Washington hopes to drive the Taliban to negotiate a peace. Talks are underway but have not shown substantial progress.
The SIGAR report said civilian casualties continue to rise in Afghanistan, a metric that tracks a U.N. report in July on civilian casualties.
The report also said that the Taliban increased the number of its overall attacks as well as “effective” (casualty-producing) attacks against Afghan and Coalition forces in the past quarter.
Enemy-initiated attacks (EIA) increased by 9% and effective enemy-initiated attacks (EEIA) increased by 17% compared to the preceding three months, the report said. However, this period’s EIA and EEIA fell somewhat compared to the same reporting period last year (March 1–May 31, 2018), the report said.
“DOD (Department of Defense) said that while Taliban fighting capacity also suffered [from December 2018 to May 2019], the Taliban retain safe havens and recruiting pools in areas not targetable by (Afghan forces),” the report said.
SIGAR can no loner report how much territory is controlled by the Afghan government or the Taliban because of new restrictions placed on information by the Trump administration.