Afghanistan: Government forces shrinking as Taliban regain territory – report

KABUL (TCA) — The size of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) has reached its lowest point in three years, insurgent control over territory in Afghanistan has increased, and the Afghan government’s influence inside the country’s borders continues to decline, Russia’s Sputnik news agency reported citing a US watchdog report.

ANDSF “personnel strength in October 2018 (308,693) fell to the lowest level it has been since the beginning of the [NATO] RS [Resolute Support] mission in January 2015,” according to the US inspector general for Afghanistan. Afghan forces are authorized to field a combined force of 352,000 security personnel, which includes Afghanistan’s police and military forces.

In a report to the US Congress, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) wrote that since last October, Taliban and insurgent forces “contested” a greater part of the country’s territory. Furthermore, “[T]he Afghan government’s control or influence of its districts decreased by nearly two percentage points since July to 53.8 percent,” according to SIGAR.

All 296 pages of SIGAR’s 42nd report were submitted to the US Congress on January 31.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani emphasized at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month that at least 45,000 Afghanis have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, the Associated Press reported.

The US pays the lion’s share of the approximately $4 billion annual budget for Afghanistan’s government to arm, train, compensate and sustain the ANDSF, AP reported.

The US military’s publicly stated goal in Afghanistan is to help Kabul develop a self-reliant fighting force that would preclude the need for US support. “They [Afghan security forces] are fighting, and they are taking casualties, but they are also very offensive-minded, inflicting losses on the Taliban and [ISIS-Khorasan] daily, while expanding their capabilities and proficiency every day,” said Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of US Central Command, in a January news release.

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Times of Central Asia