By Ayesha Tanzeem
WASHINGTON - Attacks carried out by Taliban and other insurgent groups in Afghanistan were twice as effective in the third quarter of 2019 than they were earlier in the year, according to a leading oversight authority on Afghanistan that reports to the United States Congress.
"Roughly half of the 3,495 EIA (enemy initiated attacks) this quarter (49% from June 1 to August 31) were considered "effective" enemy-initiated attacks (EEIA) that resulted in ANDSF, Coalition, or civilian casualties. Enemy attacks have been more effective this quarter than they were during the preceding months of this year (42% effective from January-May 2019)," according to the latest quarterly report presented to the Congress Thursday by the U.S. Special Inspector General on Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).
In addition, the report said, the number of attacks on Afghan government or coalition forces also increased compared to last summer.
"RS (Resolute Support, the NATO mission) reported 7,183 EIA (enemy initiated attacks) this quarter (June 1-August 31, 2019), with most attacks occurring in the south, west and northwest of the country," the SIGAR report said.
More bombs dropped
On the other hand, Afghan security forces increased their ground operations and air strikes, and the U.S. and coalition forces dropped more bombs in September this year, 948 according to U.S. Air Force Central Command, than at any time since October 2010.
"According to NATO Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan (NSOCC-A), the 2,531 ground operations conducted by ASSF (Afghan Special Security Forces) from January-September 2019 have already outpaced the total for all of 2018 (2,365)," the report added.
The heightened intensity in fighting is responsible for raising the level of civilian casualties in Afghanistan in recent months.
The Unites Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) recorded what it called an "unprecedented number of civilian casualties" in the third quarter of 2019.
Record civilian deaths
"Civilian casualties at record-high levels clearly show the need for all parties concerned to pay much more attention to protecting the civilian population, including through a review of conduct during combat operations," said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan.
A special BBC investigation revealed "an average of 74 men, women and children were killed every day in Afghanistan throughout the month of August." However, BBC clarified that only a fifth of those were civilians and the rest were combatants "including more Taliban than expected."
Following the collapse of peace talks between the U.S. and Taliban in early September, both sides ramped up attacks. According to a report on the website of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, "Almost 40 strikes hit Afghanistan every day in September."
The report called the jump from previous months "dramatic," 1,113 in September compared to 810 in August and 537 the previous month.
In addition, the Taliban ramped up attacks on activities related to Afghan presidential elections that were held September 28, resulting in a historic low voter turnout.
"The number of civilian casualties attributed to the Taliban in July, August and September more than tripled compared to the same period last year," according to the SIGAR report.