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Despite $900 Billion Spent and 2,400 U.S. Lives Lost, Afghanistan Continues to Deteriorate

A new report is out from the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR)—the government’s watchdog for the war—and its findings paint an ugly picture: despite billions spent and thousands of U.S. lives lost, Afghanistan is facing worsening violence and instability.

SIGAR’s quarterly report to Congress—its 40st since the conflict began—found that the U.S.-backed Afghan government controls or influences just 56 percent of the administrative districts in the country, down from 72 percent in 2015. By comparison, some 14 percent of districts are now controlled or influenced by insurgent forces, and another 30 percent are rated “contested.”

The loss of territory has coincided with a slight drop in violent incidents. There were a reported 63 violent incidences per day in Afghanistan from February to May of this year (the period covered by the SIGAR report), a 7 percent decrease from the same period last year. However, both targeted assassinations and suicide bombings were up in the same period, rising 35 percent and 78 percent respectively, from last year.

Civilian deaths are also up. A record 1,692 civilians were killed in the first six months of 2018, according to the SIGAR report, slightly more than the 1,672 civilians killed last year, and a massive increase from the 1,052 civilians killed in 2009. When factoring in injuries, total casualties had declined slightly in the first six months of this year to 5,122, down from 5,272 last year.

Of these casualties, the SIGAR report—relying on United Nations data—found that 67 percent were the result of anti-government forces, while 20 percent were attributed to pro-government forces, which would include the U.S.

Some 353 casualties (149 dead and 204 injured) were the result of airstrikes, up from 232 last year and coinciding with a sharp increase in the number of U.S. airstrikes this year.