“The Afghan government’s district and population control deteriorated to its lowest level since SIGAR began analyzing district-control data,” the report says. “As of August 2017, there were 54 districts under insurgent control (13) or influence (41), an increase of nine districts over the last six months.”
The weakness of the central government has always been a weak spot in the coalition strategy to rebuild Afghanistan. It’s not a surprise, given Afghanistan’s lack of infrastructure, tribal politics, and war torn history. But having the Taliban or Islamic State-Khorosan control more areas is a major backslide. Control or influence means they can generate an income, buy better weapons, and hire more gunmen. It also means they assert their own local laws on the population, creating another cycle of supporters.
Also, safe havens create the opportunity to launch attacks on government officials and civilian minorities like those praying Shia mosques. “Several high-profile attacks this quarter further damaged public confidence in the Afghan government’s ability to safeguard the population,” the SIGAR report says ominously.