US no longer tracking Taliban’s encroachment in Afghanistan

The move will make it harder for the watchdog to analyse the extent of Taliban’s hold in Afghanistan. Is this Us’s covert admission of defeat?

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News Analysis |

The United States Army is no longer keeping an eye on the amount of territory controlled and contested by Taliban and Afghan government, the metric which in the past used to give a general overview for the U.S lawmakers and citizens as to where the Afghanistan campaign was heading. It was revealed in the report released by Special Inspector General For Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) which said that the U.S Army has told SIGAR body that it is no longer marking the districts controlled by Afghan government forces or Taliban.

As per the last assessment made in the report released in January 2019, 53.8 percent districts covering 63.5 percent of the population were under the control of the government by October 2018, with the rest of the country controlled or contested by the Taliban. However, even these stats cannot be deemed accurate as other sources such as BBC have given the numbers far higher in favor of the Taliban.

What is SIGAR?

Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), founded in 2008, is the leading oversight authority which the U.S Congress created to bring an independent analysis of Afghanistan situation and the threat to U.S investments, both financial and strategic, other than what the executive branch releases. The governing administration at times paints the picture in a way which suits the policy narrative of the president or lobbying group and which is far from the on-ground situation. Since 2014, insecurity, corruption, and the illegal drug trade have been at the top of SIGAR’s list as the threat to U.S interests in Afghanistan.

Read more: US withdrawal from Afghanistan focus of next talks: Taliban

SIGAR has termed the development as disappointing since it is going to take away the key metric which was used to understand the on-ground situation in Afghanistan. Absence of the data means that there can be no record or scrutiny on part of SIGAR as to where and for what the U.S taxpayer’s money is being spent in Afghanistan.

Has the US Accepted the Defeat?

Back in 2017, Washington had set the benchmark for itself that in the next two years, Taliban will be forced back and at least 80% territory would be administered by the Afghan government. Even as per the skewed data published in January 2019, the United States is well behind the intended target. As soon as the winter is over, the Taliban launch a fresh series of attacks on the government forces which is known famously known as “The Spring Offensive”.

In the bloody battles which follow, Taliban end up taking control of more territory which they were contesting for in the past. As the U.S interest in the war is diminishing, the Afghan forces simply lack the capacity to stop the incoming waves of Taliban who have gathered their strengths back when the fighting is paused due to severe climatic conditions in the winter.

Given the fact that now there will be no assessment made regarding the control of territory in the future, it is certain that the United States has accepted that its Afghan campaign is counting the last days. The dialogue process is underway between the Taliban and the U.S where the latter has made sure its exit from the country sooner rather later. Also, it must have been getting embarrassing for the U.S Army to make a count of districts which keep falling in the hands of Taliban after spending billions of dollars and the U.S public demanding an explanation of defeats.

Read more: US: Ending war not hypocrisy

It also implies that the United States is concerned more about the public face-saving and the exit from Afghanistan instead of making an acceptable arrangement for the people of Afghanistan about the mess that the invasion has created. All signs so far point toward the withdrawal of the U.S troops followed by another round of civil war in Afghanistan.