NATO refuses to release Taliban attack data while US negotiates Afghan peace deal

1 May 2020

According to the latest quarterly report by the US government's internal watchdog for Afghan reconstruction, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, (SIGAR), since the preliminary US-Taliban peace deal in February, NATO has refused to make the number of attacks by the Taliban publicly available. Data on enemy attacks "was one of the last remaining metrics SIGAR was able to use to report publicly on the security situation in Afghanistan", the watchdog said.

NATO's Resolute Support Mission (RSM) said it was not releasing the number because attacks by the Taliban "are now a critical part of deliberative interagency discussions regarding ongoing political negotiations between the US and the Taliban", according to the SIGAR report to Congress. The RSM said that from 1 to 31 March, "the Taliban refrained from attacks against Coalition Forces" but increased attacks against Afghan National Defence Forces "to levels above seasonal norms".

The RSM includes about 8,600 US troops deployed to Afghanistan and a similar number of troops from allied nations.

A US Defense Department spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell, said the attack figures were for official use only but would be "releasable to the public when no longer integral to these deliberations, or the deliberations are concluded". Campbell said that enemy attacks during March exceeded seasonal norms and that "the US, 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".

The RSM had provided attack information to SIGAR since September 2018 as one way to measure the security situation in the country. In the past two years, the RSM has restricted other information about security that was once publicly available, including assessments of how many districts the Taliban controls, as well as Afghan Security Forces casualty information.

The office of Afghanistan's national security adviser told The Associated Press that the Taliban have carried out 2,804 attacks since the Taliban-US deal, or about 10-15 armed attacks per day.

The SIGAR report found a positive trend in a 32 percent reduction in the number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan from 1 January to 31 March 2020 compared to the same period last year. Last year was the sixth year in a row that Afghanistan had more than 10,000 civilian casualties.

The report also found that COVID-19 is threatening Afghans' health and the country's fragile economy. Over 226,000 undocumented Afghan migrants returned from Iran, one of the world’s worst-hit countries, in the first three months of the year. Combined with the low number of Afghans being tested, the report warns, Afghanistan is especially vulnerable to an outbreak.