WASHINGTON (AP)– As the Trump administration promotes peace in Afghanistan, a brand-new U.S. watchdog report says Afghan security forces are shrinking, gaps in security are growing, and the Taliban are largely holding their own regardless of a rise in American bombing.

These trends reflect what U.S. military authorities call a stalemated war, more than 17 years after U.S. forces invaded following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Gauges of battleground momentum have actually altered little over the previous year, according to a watchdog agency referred to as the Unique Inspector General for Afghanistan Restoration. In a report to Congress on Thursday, it stated the Afghan federal government controls or influences 54 percent of districts, down from 56 percent a year earlier, and the Taliban’s share slipped from 14 percent to 12 percent. Contested territory increased from 30 percent to 34 percent.

The Pentagon firmly insists that military pressure on the Taliban is installing. Last year the U.S. significantly increased its usage of air power in support of Afghan forces. According to U.S. Central Command information, U.S. airplane dropped 6,823 bombs in the first 11 months of2018 That compares with 4,361 bombs dropped in all of 2017.

Nevertheless, the Afghan government has been not able to expand its control of the country, and analysts say a straight-out military victory by either side is beyond reach.

In the middle of reports that President Donald Trump is considering withdrawing as lots of as half of the 14,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has actually been openly emphasizing the sacrifices his soldiers are making in battling the Taliban. Ghani was reported to have said at the World Economic Online Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last weekend that 45,000 Afghan security workers had actually passed away given that September2014 President Barack Obama ended the U.S. ground battle function versus the Taliban at the end of 2014 while focusing more on training and recommending Afghan forces.

The heavy losses suffered by Afghan forces partly describe why Kabul is unable to develop its army and cops to their authorized strength of an integrated 352,000 Thursday’s inspector basic report said the army and police are at a combined overall of simply over 308,000, down from 312,000 a year previously and nearly 316,000 in2016 The expense of arming, training, paying and sustaining those forces falls mainly to the U.S. government at more than $4 billion a year.

Although U.S. commanders have long argued they are making development toward enabling the Afghan federal government to protect its own people, Trump has said lot of times that he doubts the wisdom of continuing the war. His Afghanistan envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, stated in current days the U.S. and the Taliban agreed in principle to a framework for peace, although important components are yet to be settled, consisting of buy-in by the Afghan government.

Taliban authorities, who talked to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said the two sides had actually reached an understanding about the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops and that the militant group had actually made guarantees that Afghan soil would not be used again for attacks against the United States or others.

Afghan officials hope Trump will describe his objectives in further detail throughout his State of the Union address next week.

In a report to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said neither the Afghan federal government nor the Taliban will have the ability to gain a tactical military benefit in 2019 if U.S.-led coalition assistance remains at current levels.

” Afghan forces generally have secured cities and other government strongholds, but the Taliban has increased large-scale attacks, and Afghan security struggles with a great deal of forces being restrained in defensive missions, mobility shortages, and an absence of dependable forces to hold recaptured area,” his report stated.

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Associated Press writers Deborah Riechmann in Washington and Kathy Gannon in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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