WASHINGTON, August 21 (Sputnik) – Rising civilian deaths, severe drought, capability gaps and a resilient insurgency are just some of the factors that are complicating US efforts to end the war in Afghanistan, the Defense Department Inspector General for Operation Freedom’s Sentinel said in a report submitted to Congress.
“Civilian deaths reached historically high levels, and violence displaced tens of thousands of Afghans,” Defense Department Principal Deputy Inspector General Glenn Fine said in the report released on Monday. “In addition, severe drought has critically aﬀected 1.4 million Afghans, increasing the need for humanitarian assistance funding.”
The report also said that despite US and Afghan operational successes in air and ground campaigns, the Islamic State terrorist group (banned in Russia) continues to recruit and carry out high-profile attacks and remains a threat while the Taliban continue to hold a substantial amount of territory.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the report noted, reported civilian deaths reached the highest level in the first 6 months of 2018 since they have been recording the metric since 2009.
The civilian deaths were primarily caused by improvised explosive devices, but also by ground engagements, targeted and deliberate killings as well as aerial operations, the report explained.
UNAMA attributed more than half of civilian casualties caused by suicide and complex attacks to the Islamic State Khorasan Province (IS-K) terror group (outlawed in Russia), which carried out a number of large-scale bombings that deliberately targeted civilians during the quarter.
“In Nangarhar province, where ISIS-K [IS] is active, civilian casualties doubled during the first 6 months of 2018,” the report said. “In addition, UNAMA documented 341 civilian casualties (117 deaths and 224 injured) related to Taliban and ISIS-K [IS] attacks on facilities related to the upcoming parliamentary elections.”
The report added that a fifth of the civilian deaths were caused by activities of pro-government forces in the first half of 2018.
The report said that according to the Resolute Support mission, the percentage of the population living under Afghan government influence did not significantly increase during the quarter.
“Resolute Support reported that, as of May 2018, 65 percent of Afghans lived in areas under government control or influence, 12 percent lived in areas under Taliban control or influence, and 23 percent lived in contested areas,” the report said. “Those numbers are identical to the previous quarter.”
Since an assessment conducted in January, the net changes did not amount to more than 1 percent of the population, the report added.
“As of May 2018, the Taliban controlled 11 districts, had influence over 45, and contested 122 of Afghanistan’s 407 districts. The Afghan government controlled 74 and influenced 155 districts,” the report said.
Afghanistan’s government forces have long been fighting Taliban insurgency, as well as the Islamic State with the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces conducting joint counterterrorist operations across the country.