Losing Ground in Afghanistan

The security situation in Afghanistan is eroding, according to a third quarter report to Congress from the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). Only 63.4 percent of the country’s districts remain under the control of the Afghan government, down from 65.6 percent in May. The report, released Sunday, says 33 of Afghanistan’s 407 districts were under insurgent control or influence, and another 116 were “contested” as of Aug. 28. Afghan National Army and police numbers are only at about 87 percent of authorized levels and the security forces “suffer from high levels of attrition,” states the report. The Afghan National Army, not including civilians, has 2,199 less personnel than it did last quarter. SIGAR also reported that “the United States lacks visibility into most Afghan units’ actual levels of training and effectiveness.” One result of this lack of transparency is the overuse of Afghan special forces for missions that could be completed by conventional troops. US military advisors are working mainly with these elite units and have “little or no direct contact” with Afghan units below headquarters level. So while Afghan special forces have achieved a high level of success, ANA units “have questionable abilities to sustain and maintain units and materiel” in support of the government’s strategy of “hold” in districts the government is unwilling to give up, “fight” in districts where the government wants to resist insurgent advances, and “disrupt” in districts held by insurgents.