The Insider

DOD reverses policy limiting SIGAR data; new report shows record Taliban gains 

March 08, 2018 |
Justin Doubleday
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The Defense Department has lifted restrictions on the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction publishing data on Taliban control over local populations, and SIGAR subsequently released a document showing insurgent control has reached a record high.

Late last month, SIGAR quietly released an addendum to its January quarterly report showing 55.8 percent of Afghanistan's 407 districts are under Afghan government control or influence, while the Taliban have hold over 14.3 percent of the districts, the highest it's been since SIGAR began reporting on the district-control data in 2015. Meanwhile, the remaining 30 percent of Afghanistan's districts are “contested,” according to the addendum.

In the quarterly report released in January, SIGAR said the Resolute Support campaign had restricted the auditors from reporting on district, land-area and population control for the first time. In the report, SIGAR John Sopko wrote the development was “troubling for a number of reasons, not least of which is that this is the first time SIGAR has been specifically instructed not to release information marked 'unclassified' to the American taxpayer.”

DOD subsequently said the data had been restricted as a result of “human error.” In the addendum, SIGAR notes the Resolute Support Campaign officially informed the auditors on Feb. 15 “it was an error and the data had been remarked for public release.”

The key points in the now-released data, according to the addendum, are the percentage of districts under insurgent control or influence has doubled since 2015, the percentage of contested districts has risen by nearly 50 percent since 2015, and the percentage of districts under government control or influence had decreased by over 20 percent since 2015.