ISIS in Afghanistan (Twitter)

In the aftermath of the ISIS suicide bombing at a wedding reception on in Afghanistan that left 63 people dead on Saturday night, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani marked the nation's 100th independence celebration with a solemn vow to "eliminate" the terror group's strongholds across the country.

"We will take revenge for every civilian drop of blood," Ghani declared. "Our struggle will continue against (ISIS), we will take revenge and will root them out."

That might prove difficult. Six month after President Donald Trump declared victory over the ISIS "caliphate" in Iraq and Syria, the terror group continues to mount a bloody comeback across the Middle East — and Afghanistan is no exception.

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(U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Luke Hoogendam)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - There has been a sharp drop in the size of Afghanistan's National Defense Security Forces in the past few months due to changes in the way troops are counted and an effort to reduce the number of so-called "ghost" soldiers, a U.S. government watchdog said on Thursday.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said in a report that ANDSF personnel size had gone down by nearly 10 percentage points in the most recent quarter compared to the previous trimester.

The number of ANDSF troops fell by nearly 42,000 compared to roughly the same period, between April and the end of June last year, the report said.

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In a bizarre case of friendly fire, a contingent of U.S. and Afghan troops came under fire from another group of Afghan security forces before calling in air support in self-defense, a U.S. military spokesman told Task & Purpose on Wednesday.

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An Iraqi Air Force AC-208 Cessna Caravan aircrew launches a hellfire missile at a target on the Aziziyah Training Range, south of Baghdad, Nov. 8, 2010. (Photo by: Sgt. Brandon Bolick)

The U.S. military may no longer track how much territory the Afghan government controls, but here's at least one definite metric of success: Afghan AC-208 pilots are no longer trained in the United States because more than 40 percent of the students training to fly the aircraft end up deserting within U.S. borders.

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So, how goes the never-ending war in Afghanistan? According to the United States's top government oversight authority on it, well, we don't know and can't say.

"Almost every indicia, metric for success or failure is now classified or nonexistent," John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), told Wednesday. "Over time, it's been classified or it's no longer being collected ... The classification in some areas is needless."

To be clear, Sopko isn't just saying that the Pentagon has opted to keep more information on its progress in Afghanistan classified — he's saying that the Pentagon has outright ceased gathering critical data on whether the United States is actually succeeding or failing after sinking 17 years, 2,400 fallen service members, and $900 billion dollars into a seemingly endless conflict.

This isn't just alarming statement coming from a government watchdog, but a level of mind-numbing epistemic gymnastics on par with Donald Rumsfeld's "unknown unknowns."

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If your words of the day today were "cautious optimism," you're in luck, because Army Col. Dave Zinn, who recently returned from Afghanistan, offered exactly that to reporters on Wednesday.

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