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Numbers recently provided by the Resolute Support Mission (RSM), a US -led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation mission in Afghanistan, revealed that during the last quarter of the current year, the Afghan government managed to control or influence only 226 of the country's 407 districts, that is 55.5 percent of the total Afghan territory only.

The report highlighted several "discouraging developments" over the past few months, including the Taliban's rejection of a second ceasefire and its five-day siege on Ghazni. By comparison, some 14 percent of districts are now controlled or influenced by insurgent forces, and another 30 percent are rated "contested".

Last month, Scott Miller, the top USA general in Afghanistan, survived a Taliban attack that killed Abdul Raziq, a top police general in Kandahar. The control of Afghanistan's districts, population, and territory overall became more contested this quarter, with both the Afghan government and the insurgency losing districts and land area under their control or influence.

The report pointed to a high number of casualties among Afghan forces.

"From the period of May 1 to the most current data as of October 1, 2018, the average number of casualties the (Afghan forces) suffered is the greatest it has ever been during like periods", it said.

On Sept. 24, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said that while he could not confirm reports that about 500 police and soldiers had been killed and 700 wounded over the previous month, the figures "sound about right".

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US officials have insisted that US President Trump's strategy, announced in August 2017, is working.

Taliban representatives have met with US officials at least twice in Qatar in recent months, most recently on October 12 with USA peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. But they've also shown an increased interest in reconciliation. "So if you realize you can't win militarily at some point, fighting is just, people start asking why".

In August, Russia had declared that it would host the second round of the 11-party regional mechanism with Afghanistan, with the Taliban's participation, on 4 September.

"Despite its importance ... counternarcotics seems to have fallen completely off the U.S. agenda", special inspector general John Sopko wrote in the report's introduction.

Six months before presidential elections, the figures are a sign of the degraded security situation in Afghanistan, even as the USA special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, has met Taliban officials to map out possible peace talks.


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