NEW DELHI: The Afghan government has lost control of nearly 5 percent of its territory to the Taliban since the beginning of this year, notes the quarterly report submitted by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). Published on Friday, the report states that the area under Afghan government "control or influence" decreased to 65.6 percent by the end of May from 70.5 percent last year, based on data provided by US forces in Afghanistan.

The report notes that of the 407 districts within the 34 provinces, 268 districts were under government control or influence, 36 districts (8.8%) within 15 provinces were under insurgent control or influence, and 104 districts (25.6 %) were “at risk.” Of the 36 districts under insurgent control or influence, nine districts with a population of 524,072 are under insurgent control and 27 districts with a population of 1.98 million are under insurgent influence.

The mission mission determined district status by assessing five indicators of stability: governance, security, infrastructure, economy, and communications. It stated that the increased insurgent control since January be put in context of the Afghan sustainable security strategy which focuses Afghan forces in high-priority areas to achieve strategic and operational objectives. This strategy includes redeploying forces from checkpoints and lower-priority areas so they are available to conduct offensive operations, gain and maintain the initiative, exploit opportunities, and consolidate tactical gains.

According to Afghan media, the MOI spokesman reported that more than 50 (12.3%) of the country’s districts face serious threats from insurgents, with nine out of the government’s control as of June 28, 2016. Those districts include four in Helmand, two in Badakhshan, and one each in Ghazni, Sar-e Pul, and Zabul Provinces. Afghan media also reported the Ghazni police chief claims the Taliban have suicide-bomber and motor-bomb training centers in the Nawa district of Ghazni.

Afghan media reported in early June that Taliban insurgents used a government hand-held biometric system to test the identity of bus passengers in Kunduz. Those affiliated with the security forces were reportedly executed. Bus-passenger abductions continued into the month of June with more than 25 passengers taken from the Kabul-Kandahar Highway on June 21 in addition to the 200-plus passengers abducted on the Baghlan Kunduz Highway two weeks earlier.

A U.S. National Public Radio photojournalist and an Afghan journalist were killed in June when a rocket-propelled grenade hit their vehicle while traveling with a small ANA convoy. Since 2001, 26 journalists have been killed in Afghanistan, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

One of the deadliest attacks on foreign workers since the war began nearly 15 years ago occurred on June 20th when a suicide bomber hit a bus carrying Nepali and Indian security guards for the Canadian Embassy killing 14 and wounding nine other guards and civilians. Both the Taliban and ISIL-K claimed responsibility for the attack, the first in Kabul in two Months. Hours later a second attack in Kabul injured an Afghan provincial minister and five others when a bomb planted on the lawmaker’s vehicle detonated.179 The next day 24 Nepali guards resigned. One guard told the Associated Press that regulations preventing them from carrying weapons except when at the Canadian Embassy left them at risk from other attacks.

On June 30, 2016, at least 32 police cadets returning to Kabul from a training program in Wardak Province were killed and at least 53 were wounded when a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into the convoy of police buses. A second suicide bomber targeted first responders, killing one civilian and wounding another. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks. Following the incident, President Ghani suspended at least five MOI generals from the Wardak training center pending an investigation of alleged negligence in transporting the police cadets. According to the Afghan national security advisor, mass transit of security forces is prohibited without adequate security measures. The investigation will attempt to determine if police personnel may have colluded with the attackers, as survivors reported the suicide bombers were on the bus.

An earlier incident in Wardak Province led to an investigation of the police chief. Afghan media reported that after the Taliban’s spy chief in Baghlan Province was wounded by Afghan security forces, he was later captured on June 19th while riding in a Wardak police vehicle, en route to Kabul and accompanied by the chief’s relatives; he allegedly had plans to travel on to Pakistan.

The report states that a sign of the growing insecurity in Kabul are the increasing number of concrete blast walls that surround government buildings, foreign embassies, companies, and the homes of wealthy residents.

Read the full report here: