Afghanistan: What Issues Face The Country Post-Withdrawal?

A report has highlighted an increase in the number of civilian casualties and an "overtaxed" Afghan Air Force as troops withdraw.

A new report has outlined the various issues facing Afghanistan as Western troops near the completion of their withdrawal from the country.

The report was written by the Special Inspector General For Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) – an organisation that provides an "objective oversight of the $144.98bn" the US has provided in Afghan reconstruction programmes.

One issue the report outlined was the continued rise of civilian casualties and, according to Resolute Support, the NATO-led support mission in Afghanistan, 2,035 civilian casualties were reported between April and May this year – including 705 deaths and 1,330 injuries.

The total almost matches the 2,149 casualties recorded between January and March 2021.

The report also said, according to the UN, the number of Afghans requiring humanitarian assistance in 2021 has reached approximately half of Afghanistan's total estimated population.

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This is double the number of Afghans who required support in 2020 and six times higher than four years ago.

It comes as General David Petraeus, the former US Commander in Afghanistan, told The Times the world would see that the US is "not supporting democracy or maintaining the values that [the US] promote around the world".

He added that, in a worst-case scenario, the US had left Afghanistan to fight a "bloody, brutal civil war".

And SIGAR's report said the number of "enemy-initiated attacks (EIA)" had increased since the signing of the US-Taliban agreement in February 2020.

Data from US Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) reported 10,383 EIAs between March and May this year, with 3,268 "effective attacks".

This data comes as the capital city of Helmand Province recently came under sustained attack from the Taliban.

Intense fighting in Lashkar Gah has taken place since Friday, with Afghan and US airstrikes reportedly targeting Taliban positions.

And the SIGAR report also said that during the last quarter the Taliban has launched an offensive against the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

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While they avoided attacking US and coalition forces, the Taliban overran a number of district centres and seized numerous key border crossings – potentially denying the Afghan government significant customs revenue.

The report also said all of the Afghan Air Force's aircraft are "overtaxed due to increased requests for close air support, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance missions, and aerial resupply".

This is due to the Afghan National Security Forces lacking US air support, according to the Training Advisory Assistance Command-Air (TAAC-Air).

The report also stated all Afghan Air Force aircraft were flying at least 25% over their recommended intervals, adding "crews remain overtasked due to the security situation in Afghanistan" and the Operations Tempo has increased.

In June alone, five of the Afghan Air Force's seven airframes experienced decreased readiness.

This coincided with both the Taliban offensive and the withdrawal of US and Coalition troops.

Cover image: Afghan flag flies over an observation post in Pekha Valley, Achin District, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan (Picture: US Army).