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The Taliban Controls More Afghan Territory Than Any Time Since 2001

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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The situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating so quickly that it’s almost impossible for government inspectors to conduct investigations on U.S. reconstruction efforts.

The Taliban now controls more territory in the region than any time previous since 2001, according to a report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). In total, the U.S. has invested $113 billion in reconstruction efforts, but as SIGAR Inspector General John Sopko wrote, “intractable insurgents, cutbacks in foreign military personnel, persistent emigration of people and capital, and a slowing global economy are shifting Afghanistan’s economic prospects from troubling to bleak.”

Instability is ruining efforts by U.S. and local Afghan officials to check up on reconstruction projects, meaning that these projects are largely left to the wild. Afghanistan in the final months of 2015 proved to be far more dangerous than the year previous.

Yet, SIGAR has still endeavored to provide oversight, with 11 audits and other reports published in 2015. These reports resulted in $100,000 of cost savings to the U.S. government, as well as $1.4 million from civil settlement recoveries, following revelation of a contract bid-rigging system. Fines also brought in $110,000.

Escalating insurgent movements have also put an incredible strain on government finances. In just 2016 alone, costs to maintain government defense forces are projected at $5 billion, despite the military hemorrhaging troops and morale. The security situation is bleak, as is the economic one.

Afghans are fleeing the country, putting passport offices under strain.

While the U.S. still has around $11.5 billion allocated for efforts in Afghanistan, it’s unclear what those funds will accomplish. One study showed that several villages that received U.S. development aid actually exhibited more support for the Taliban than before, though the United States Agency for International Development has largely ignored the findings.

Military planners have now seriously started to consider adding more troops, instead of proceeding ahead with drawdown efforts. These troops may even stay in Afghanistan for decades in an effort to copy the South Korea model. Currently, there are 9,800 U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan. President Barack Obama has already turned away from more drastic force reduction plans, saying that he intends for 5,500 troops to remain in the country after January 2017.

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