That’s the bleak picture painted by two recent reports, one on Afghanistan, the other on Iraq and Syria, released by the Pentagon’s independent oversight agencies.
Coming nine months after the Trump administration rolled out a new Afghanistan policy, and just six months after the Iraqi government declared victory over ISIS, the two reports are a stark contrast to the optimistic outlook presented by Pentagon officials in recent months.
In November, the top US commander in Afghanistan called Trump’s new strategy for the country a “game changer” for a 17-year conflict that had, once again, “turned the corner” after the president committed 4,000 additional troops. The military’s own data contradicts that, according to the watchdog agency, which has also raised concerns that the Pentagon has stopped providing some details about both conflicts in recent months.
High casualty rates and desertions mean that despite the US multibillion-dollar training program, the numbers of Afghan security forces “have suffered a sharp decline in strength.” The insurgents’ control over districts are at the highest level since the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, began receiving the data in 2015. US troops continue to suffer higher casualties than in recent years, and the capital has been shaken by a violent wave of suicide bombings and terror attacks.
"The Taliban knows what's going on, the Afghan government knows what's going on, the only people who don't know what's going on are the people who are paying for it — the American taxpayer,” said John Sopko, the special inspector general who put out the report.