KABUL throughout 2016 was characterised by the capture and recapture of facilities and territory by both sides, a US report said on Wednesday.
As ANDSF maintained control of major population centers, provincial capitals and the majority of district centers, the Taliban held sway over substantial territory in less populated, rural areas, it said.
In its annual “Country Reports on Terrorism 2016”, the State Department conceded Taliban’s ability to regularly exert pressure on population centers, creating an environment of persistent insecurity.
“Despite repeated sieges, the Taliban were unable to fully capture and hold provincial capitals in Farah, Helmand, Kunduz, and Uruzgan,” the report added.
The Taliban and Haqqani Network also increased high-profile terrorist attacks targeting Afghan government officials – including justice officials – and members of the international community.
Primary responsibility for security in Afghanistan troops to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).
The US troops still maintain the capacity to conduct counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan as outlined in the Bilateral Security Agreement. In 2016, the majority of counterterrorism operations were carried out in partnership with, or solely by, Afghan forces.
ISIS radical and violent ideology, combined with larger payments to fighters and their families, attracted disaffected elements of insurgent and terrorist groups in the country, the report said.
But a vast majority of Afghans, including the Taliban, have rejected the group’s ideology and brutal tactics. Islamic State’s Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) presence was primarily limited to some areas of Nangarhar and Kunar provinces, it said.
“The ANDSF and US counterterrorism operations killed hundreds of ISIS-K fighters, including ISIS-K leader Hafiz Saeed Khan, in July 2016 in Nangarhar province.
“On numerous occasions, Taliban and ISIS-K fighters clashed over control of territory and resources. ISIS-K conducted a number of high-profile attacks during the second half of 2016.
The Afghan government consistently underlined the need to strengthen joint cooperation to fight terrorism and violent extremism in a variety of bilateral and multilateral forums.
“Notable among them is the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process, in which regional countries have committed to counterterrorism cooperation,” the State Department said.
The Afghan government also works closely with the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the United Nations Regional Center for Preventative Diplomacy for Central Asia to facilitate regional cooperation on a range of issues.