In an abrupt about face, the U.S. military released data Tuesday showing insurgents in Afghanistan are growing stronger after a Pentagon auditing office complained it had been prohibited from releasing the unclassified statistics.
Even after 16 years of war, only about 56 percent of Afghanistan’s 407 districts are under control of the central government in Kabul. Another 30 percent are contested and 14 percent are under insurgent control, the Pentagon data showed.
In addition, an estimated 60 percent of the Afghan population is under central government control, down from 65 percent last February.
The data were released after the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, a Pentagon auditing office known as SIGAR, complained in a report that the U.S. military command in Kabul had called the metrics “not releasable to the public,” even though they are unclassified.
“This is the first time SIGAR has been specifically instructed not to release information marked ‘unclassified’ to the American taxpayer,” John F. Sopko, head of the auditing organization, said in a cover letter to the report.
Navy Capt. Thomas Gresback, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, said it had been a mistake to restrict the data, one of the last publicly available metrics for evaluating progress in America’s longest war.
“It was not the intent … to withhold or classify information which was available in prior reports,” Gresback said in a statement. “A human error in labeling occurred.”
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