The Taliban have been carrying out more than 27 attacks daily in Afghanistan while engaging the U.S. in peace talks, according to the Pentagon's Inspector General's office.
The IG's report said that, in the three-month period from Oct. 1 through Dec. 30, the Taliban initiated a total of 2,517 attacks, or slightly more than 27 daily.
All of the attacks were defined by NATO's Resolute Support mission as "effective enemy-initiated attacks," meaning that each resulted in at least one casualty, the IG report said. The number of attacks also represented a 10 percent increase over the same period in 2017, the report states.
During the last quarter of 2018, U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad held three rounds of talks with the Taliban. In January, he announced that insurgent leaders had agreed in principle on the framework of a peace deal that would allow for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and include pledges from the Taliban that Afghanistan would not become a safe haven for terrorists.
However, the Taliban have yet to agree to meet with the Afghan government on the framework or outline future relations with the U.S., the IG report states.
The latest IG report lacks the usual sections on humanitarian assistance, government reform, infrastructure and other issues due to the 35-day partial government shutdown and the furlough of State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development personnel.
In sum, the IG report states that "the security situation in Afghanistan remained volatile during the quarter. The Taliban continued to attack Afghan security forces and election facilities while U.S. and coalition forces intensified Afghan-led operations to counter the Taliban and terrorist organizations."
U.S. Forces-Afghanistan told the IG that the Taliban "continued to threaten provincial capitals, including Ghazni city and Farah city," two cities that came under Taliban siege in 2018.
Afghan security forces repelled recent attacks on provincial capitals, but "the Taliban remained active on the periphery of urban centers," according to the report.
Despite the increase in attacks in the last quarter, the Afghan government held parliamentary elections in October, in which four million out of 8.5 million registered voters cast ballots, the IG report states.
However, Taliban attacks on election day killed 52 people and wounded 336 across the country, and the election was marred by closed polling centers, inaccurate voter lists, and confusion over the use of biometric devices, it added.
In addition, the Taliban and the Islamic State offshoot known as ISIS-K killed a total of 10 candidates and wounded or abducted six others, according to the report. The results of the election have yet to be released.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.