The government's control of Afghanistan has slipped in recent months as local security forces suffered record casualties while making minimal or no progress against the Taliban, a U.S. government watchdog said on Thursday.
Although the U.S. agreed last year to classify the number of Afghan casualties, more than 5,000 have been killed each year according to figures SIGAR published before the blackout.
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.
"While the districts, territory, and population under insurgent control or influence also decreased slightly, the districts, territory, and population "contested" - meaning under neither Afghan government nor insurgent control or influence -increased", it said.
Last month, Scott Miller, the top US general in Afghanistan, survived a Taliban attack that killed Abdul Raziq, a top police general in Kandahar.
In terms of the Afghan population itself, Kabul controls or influences 65.2 percent, the same amount as a year ago.
Mattis this week said more than 1,000 "Afghan lads" were killed or wounded just in August and September.
"From the period of May 1 to the most current data as of October 1, 2018, the average number of casualties the ANDSF suffered is the greatest it has ever been during like periods". According to the most recent SIGAR estimate, 12% of Kabul is under direct Taliban control, with another 32% of the city considered at the very least "contested".
Miller said Wednesday that he has changed the approach to fighting the Taliban to be a more "offensive mindset". But they've also shown an increased interest in reconciliation. "So you do not necessarily wait us out, but I think now is the time to start working through the political piece of this conflict".
Kabul has been pushing for both Afghanistan and Russian Federation to co-host such a meeting.
The inspector general expressed concern that the United States is doing little to address Afghanistan's opium trade, which is used to fund the insurgency and is the main source of heroin in Europe and Canada.
The new US general leading the mission in Afghanistan gave a surprisingly candid interview this week on the situation in-country.
However, the Afghan government has not clarified its position on the possible meeting. As of September 30, 2018, U.S. counternarcotics-related appropriations for that goal had reached $8.88 billion.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan July 15, 2018.