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Afghan Forces 'Lose Ground' To Taliban

An Afghan National Army soldier holds a position while patrolling the village of But Khak on the outskirts of Kabul (file photo).

The Afghan government lost control of nearly 5 percent of its territory between January and May 2016, despite the delayed U.S. troop withdrawal, a new report from the top U.S. government watchdog says.

The report, published by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said the Afghan government was in control of 65.6 percent of the districts in the country in May -- a drop from 70.5 percent near the end of January.

Citing U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the report said the loss of territory to the Taliban was because Afghan forces were redeployed from lower-priority areas to "conduct offensive operations, gain and maintain the initiative, exploit opportunities, and consolidate tactical gains."

According to the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, John Nicholson, most of the areas the Taliban control are rural.

The report says that in addition to losing ground to the Taliban, the Afghan National Army has come under pressure from other militant groups, such as the Islamic State group and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

U.S. President Barack Obama announced earlier in July that he will leave 8,400 troops in Afghanistan through 2016, a reversal of his earlier plan to lower that number to 5,500 by January 2017.

Based on reporting by Reuters and The Guardian