(Editor's Note: On May 15, SIGAR released an addendum to the report mentioned in this article with updated Afghan military personnel numbers. That addendum can be accessed here.)
The number of Afghan security personnel has sharply declined and the country has seen an uptick in the areas controlled by the Taliban, according to the latest report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
U.S. Forces Afghanistan "reported that the actual assigned strength of the [Afghan National Defense Security Force] as of January 2018 was 296,409, which includes 165,622 [Afghan National Army] and 130,787 [Afghan National Police] personnel. These figures represent a sharp decline in strength from the same period last year: the ANA saw a 4,818-person decrease, and the ANP a 23,210-person decrease, for a total of 35,999 fewer personnel in January 2018 compared to January 2017," according to SIGAR.
Additionally, as of Jan. 31, "14.5 percent of the country's total districts were under insurgent control or influence -- the highest level recorded since SIGAR began receiving district control data -- and 56.3 percent of districts were under Afghan government control or influence," the report, released May 1, states.
Since August 2016, "Afghan government control has decreased by roughly four percentage points, and the overall trend for the insurgency is rising control over the population (from 9 percent in August 2016 to 12 percent in January 2018), according to SIGAR.
The report also notes that in the two months between Dec. 15, 2017 to Feb. 15, 2018, the United Nations "recorded an average of 55.9 security incidents per day -- nearly four incidents per day higher than the same period two years ago."
As for munitions, the first quarter of 2018 saw 1,186 bombs dropped, "the highest number recorded for this period since reporting began in 2013, and . . . over two and a half times the amount dropped in the first quarter of 2017," SIGAR states.
The report also states that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan's records "indicate that air operations in 2017 caused 631 civilian casualties including 295 deaths -- the highest number of civilian casualties from air strikes recorded in a single year. In contrast, [NATO's Resolute Support mission] provided a much lower figure for civilian casualties caused by Coalition air strikes, only 51 such casualties in 2017 and 11 between January 1 and March 2, 2018."
The report also describes a dangerously high population growth, "a situation described by an International Labor Office consultant report as a 'socio-economic time bomb.'"