For the first time, the United States mission in Afghanistan has refused to report the number of terrorist attacks in the region due to ongoing peace talks between the United States and the Taliban, according to a watchdog group.
Washington’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, a group that monitors the money spent in Afghanistan, expressed concerns on Friday in its quarterly report, the Associated Press reported. The head of SIGAR, John Sopko, wrote that terrorist attacks conducted by the Taliban and other groups “was one of the last remaining metrics SIGAR was able to use to report publicly on the security situation in Afghanistan.”
The United States, Afghanistan, and the Taliban have recently negotiated a peace deal that would see the vast majority of U.S. troops home and all of them in the coming years as long as the Taliban does not conduct any terrorist attacks on the United States or its allies.
The peace deal has been a high priority of President Donald Trump, who campaigned on bringing troops home from what he described as an endless and costly war in the Middle East. Working with Afghan officials in securing the region has been a key element to his plan.
In a Washington Post op-ed, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said that the peace deal the United States struck was the best chance of bringing U.S. forces home and that the latest peace deal was “the best chance we have to ensuring it never does again, while safely bringing our troops home.”
However, the Taliban recently took credit for a May 4 terrorist attack against an Afghani government military post in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province. Although the Taliban said the attack killed dozens of Afghan troops, the Afghan government says only one person was wounded in the bombing, the Washington Examiner reported.
The SIGAR report noted that for the first quarter of 2020, U.S. forces have classified all casualty information from Afghan national defense and security forces. Additionally, Afghan officials have stated that the Taliban has conducted 2,804 attacks since the peace deal was struck on Feb. 29. It is unclear whether or how many of those have been carried out against the United States or its allies.
Reuters notes that the Taliban has conducted 4,500 attacks in Afghanistan and there was a 70 percent increase between March 1 and April 15 compared to the same period a year ago.
Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell said the data on terrorist attacks will be released when the information is “no longer integral” to the discussions regarding the Taliban’s adherence to the peace agreement.
“The U.S., NATO and our international partners have been clear that the Taliban’s level of violence against the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces is unacceptably high,” he said.