The 35th quarterly report released by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) to the US Congress recently claimed that Conflict-related civilian casualties in Afghanistan rose to 11,418 in 2016 – the highest total civilian casualties recorded since UNAMA began documenting them in 2009.
The report also stated that security incidents throughout 2016 and continuing into the first quarter of 2017 reached their highest level since UN reporting began in 2007.
In terms of forced migration, 660,639 people in Afghanistan fled their homes due to conflict in 2016 – the highest number of displacements on record and a 40% increase over the previous year.
The report also admitted that preventing insurgents from increasing their control or influence of districts continued to be a challenge for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). According to USFOR-A, the districts under Afghan government and insurgent control both increased this quarter, while the number of contested districts fell.
In terms of military losses, the casualties suffered by the ANDSF in the fight against the Taliban and other insurgents continued to be shockingly high where 807 were killed in the first six weeks of the year; 1,328 wounded between Jan. 1 and Feb. 24.
Other major points of the report were:
–In 2013, DOD, State, and USAID deflected SIGAR’s request to identify 10 more successful and 10 less successful programs Afghanistan. Any department unable or unwilling to produce such ratings should be asked to explain how, in the absence of tools for comparison, they can make informed management decisions on program resourcing, modification, or triage if budget constraints forced such decisions.
–Domestic revenues were expected to pay for 38% of the Afghan budget this year, with donor assistance covering the rest. Without donor assistance, the IMF estimated Afghanistan’s current-account deficit equivalent to 36.6% of GDP ($6.7 billion) in 2016.
— Of 190 countries, Afghanistan is nearly last in dealing with construction permits (186), getting electricity (159), registering property (186), trading across borders (175), and enforcing contracts (180), according to the World Bank’s Doing Business report.
— Narcotics traffickers provide weapons, funding, and material support to the insurgency in exchange for protection, while insurgent leaders traffic drugs to finance their operations.
— Afghanistan’s potential opium production was approximately 4,800 metric tons (or 4.8 million kg) in 2016 alone, according to a survey done by UNODC.
— Drug use among Afghan women and children is among the highest documented worldwide, and 30.6% of households tested positive for some form of illicit drug.
— A USAID-funded survey found that of women who had been married aged 15-49, 53% experienced physical violence at least once since age 15, and 31% within the year before the survey. Fifty-six percent reported experiencing emotional, physical, or sexual violence by their spouse; 52% having experienced it within the year before the survey.
— The World Bank reported to Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund donors that no ghost schools were found during visits to 1,237 of 1,853 schools financed by the fund. The bank’s letter did not address whether the schools were open and being used for their intended purpose, or whether students and teachers were physically present and had adequate resources.
These points from the SIGAR report suggest that situation in Afghanistan is still far from good. With the US government planning for more troops in Afghanistan, there seems no end to the war started by the US and its allies in 2001. Also, recent spate of major Taliban attacks also presents a grim picture for any negotiated settlement between Kabul and the militant groups. It is yet to be seen whether interest and initiatives from regional stakeholders such as Russia, China and Iran would pay any dividends in the near of distant future.
The full SIGAR report could be found in the links below: https://www.sigar.mil/pdf/quarterlyreports/2017-04-30qr.pdf