(NATO photo by U.S. Army Master Sgt. Felix Figueroa)

The Afghan government is struggling to recover control of districts lost to Taliban militants while casualties among security forces have reached record levels, a U.S. government watchdog says.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) highlighted in its latest quarterly report on Oct. 31, 2018, the heavy pressure on the government in Kabul.

"The control of Afghanistan's districts, population, and territory overall became more contested this quarter," the agency said.


The Taliban have still not succeeded in taking a major provincial center despite assaults on the provinces of Farah and Ghazni in 2018, but they control large parts of the countryside, the SIGAR report says.

Data from Afghanistan's NATO-led Resolute Support mission showed that government forces had "failed to gain greater control or influence over districts, population, and territory this quarter", SIGAR said.

As of September 2018, it said the government controlled or influenced territory with about 65 percent of the population, stable since October 2017.

Afghan National Army soldiers prepare to depart from Afghan base Camp Maiwand in Logar province to go on a routine patrol.

(NATO photo taken by U.S. Navy Lt. Aubrey Page)

However, it reported that only 55.5 percent of the total 407 districts were under government control or influence, the lowest level since SIGAR began tracking district control in 2015.

SIGAR quoted the Resolute Support mission as saying the average number of casualties among Afghan security forces between May 1 and Oct. 1, 2018, was "the greatest it has ever been during like periods."

Figures for casualties suffered by Afghan security forces are no longer available after Washington in 2017 agreed to Kabul's request to classify the numbers.

Before that, according to figures published by SIGAR, there were more than 5,000 casualties each year.

General Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, said last month that Afghan casualties were increasing from 2017.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.