The Afghan government’s ability to control its territory has “deteriorated” as the Taliban has gained control of additional districts, according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). SIGAR’s latest report only confirmed the downward trend in Afghan government control that has been noted in ongoing analysis by FDD’s Long War Journal.
SIGAR’s evaluation is based on data provided by US Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) and Resolute Support, NATO’s mission in Afghanistan. It is likely the best case scenario provided. In the past, both USFOR-A and Resolute Support have significantly underestimated and understated the Taliban’s control of districts.
“The Afghan government’s district and population control deteriorated to its lowest level since SIGAR began analyzing district-control data in December 2015 and population-control data in September 2016,” the report noted.
According to the report, as of Aug. 2017, the Taliban controlled 13 districts and influenced 42 of Afghanistan’s 407 districts (13.5 percent combined), while the Afghan government controlled 74 districts and influenced 157 (56.7 percent). Thirty percent of Afghanistan’s districts remain contested, according to SIGAR.
Since the last SIGAR quarterly report, the Taliban took control of two more districts and gained influence in eight more. Afghan government control declined by 23 districts, and its influence was reduced in 11 districts.
SIGAR’s data jibes with analysis of Afghanistan’s districts conducted by FDD’s Long War Journal, which tracks Taliban controlled and contested districts (note: the US military and SIGAR’s assessment of control and influence matches LWJ‘s definition of control). As of Oct. 31, LWJ assessed 45 districts are controlled by the Taliban, and 115 more are contested. An additional 24 districts are claimed by the Taliban to be controlled or contested, but the claims cannot be verified by LWJ.
LWJ has documented the Taliban’s offensive that has allowed it to gain control or contest additional districts throughout all regions of the country. The Taliban continues to retain the capacity to mass its forces and overrun district centers and military bases, often without being opposed by Coalition and Afghan air power.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.