WASHINGTON: Taliban leader Mullah Mansour’s death has exacerbated fighting in Afghanistan and left the future of the Afghan peace process uncertain, warned an official US report released on Friday.
In its quarterly report to Congress, the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (Sigar) observed that in the second quarter of this year, the Taliban gained new territory and now control 19 of the country’s approximately 400 governing districts.
“Mullah Mansour’s death shuffled Taliban leadership, exacerbated fighting, and left the future of the peace process uncertain,” the report said.
Mullah Mansour was killed in a US drone strike in Balochistan on May 21, while returning from Iran.
‘Afghan govt has lost 5pc territory this year’
President Barack Obama, who authorised the strike, said he was targeted because he was refusing to participate in the US-backed peace talks with the Afghan government. But the Sigar report noted that the Afghan government experienced some success with the Hizb-e-Islami militant group, releasing a final draft for a peace agreement that received the approval of the High Peace Council.
However, by late June the peace talks had lost momentum and then completely fell through when the leader of Hizb-e-Islami, Gulbadin Hekmatyar, withdrew entirely and called for the dissolution of the Afghan unity government, the report added.
The watchdog noted that area under Afghan government’s “control or influence” shrank by nearly five per cent since beginning of this year. The area under government “control or influence” decreased to 65.6 per cent by the end of May from 70.5 per cent last year, based on data provided by US forces in Afghanistan.
The commander of US forces in Afghanistan, Army General John Nicholson, said most of the areas the Taliban controlled were rural.
Afghan officials, however, say the exact figure cannot be measured, as the fight against the Taliban and other armed groups is continuing.
The US has been training and equipping Afghan security forces in order to withdraw American troops from the country, but earlier this year President Obama authorised the troops to participate in the fight against the Taliban. He also authorised air strikes against Taliban targets.
President Obama now plans to leave 8,400 American troops in Afghanistan at the end of his term — deviating from his previous plan to withdraw from the country at the end of his final term.
The Sigar report cited US forces in Afghanistan as saying the Afghan forces lost some territory to the Taliban because they were redeployed from lower-priority to sensitive areas. They were now engaged in “offensive operations” to “gain and maintain the initiative, exploit opportunities, and consolidate tactical gains”.
The report noted that the Afghan National Defence Forces have struggled to respond to the Taliban’s growing presence. There has been particularly stiff resistance in provinces along the border with Pakistan, such as Helmand, Kandahar, and Nangarhar, with reports that 68.5 per cent of security incidents occur in southern, south-eastern, and eastern Afghanistan.
The report also claimed that a number of Taliban-coordinated attacks were planned and launched from safe havens in Pakistan.
Courtesy : Dawn News