Publication: Armed Conflict Survey 2017
09 May 2017
Afghanistan The international community had little confidence in Afghanistan’s prospects for 2016. In his final report to the UN Security Council on 15 March, Nicholas Haysom, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, said that ‘survival will be an achievement’ for the Afghan government in 2016, given the country’s strengthened insurgency, troubled peace process, low economic growth, political divisions and reliance on financial donors. Nonetheless, the government did survive – albeit amid rising fatalities, injuries and displacement (including a record number of civilian casualties) and while losing control of parts of the country.
The US special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR) estimated that 6,785 members of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) were killed and 11,777 others injured between 1 January and 12 November 2016. By the end of the year, the government controlled or influenced only 57% of the country’s 407 districts – 15% less than in 2015 – while insurgents controlled or influenced 10%, and the sides contested the remaining 33%. There were an estimated 45,000 anti-government fighters in Afghanistan, 20–25% of them foreigners. The Afghan Taliban tried to capture provincial capitals at least eight times in the year, although pro-government forces eventually repelled each assault. The group funded its efforts partly through an increase in opium-poppy cultivation: according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, in 2016 the amount of Afghan land given over to such activity increased by 10%, and opium production rose by 43%, compared to the previous year.
In the run-up to the 8–9 July NATO summit in Warsaw, then US president Barack Obama announced that 8,400 American troops would remain in Afghanistan in 2017 – 2,900 more than previously announced. At the summit, members of the Alliance agreed to continue funding the ANSF until 2020, at an annual cost of around US$4.5 billion.