Security is one of the most urgent challenges in Afghanistan. Some 21 insurgent and militant networks operate in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Islamic State (IS), al-Qaeda and Jamatud Dawa Ehli Quran. ?According to military estimates, 14% of the country is under insurgent control and 30% remains contested.? However, recent attacks and independent investigations call this figure into question.?
The Taliban is thought to control more territory now than at any time since the 2001 US-led invasion.? As of July the Afghan's government's control or influence of districts fell to 55.5%.? In September, the government's control of territory decreased in Faryab and Kandahar provinces, and there was high-level ground engagement in Balkh and Jowzjan provinces without leading to significant and sustained changes in territorial control, according to the United Nations Security Council. ? However, reliable information on areas contested or controlled by non-government forces is scarce and often conflicting. According to U.S. military estimates the number of districts controlled or contested by the Taliban increased from 29% in January 2016 to 44% in May 2018.? The Taliban reportedly now initiate around 90% of battles against pro-government forces in Afghanistan, who consequently find themselves on the defensive.? Islamic State (IS) maintains its foothold in the eastern provinces of Nangarhar and Kunar, leading to frequent clashes with the Taliban.? Since the beginning of 2018, IS has increasingly engaged in violent clashes against the Afghan government and Taliban in the northern provinces.?
The recent spike in violence has damped hopes for progress in the peace process sparked by a three-day mutual ceasefire in June and a July meeting between Taliban and US officials. ? Tense fighting and constant attacks could indicate an attempt of the Taliban to increase their leverage for future reconciliation negotations.?
The number of civilian deaths in the first nine months of 2018 increased by 5% in comparison to the same period in 2017, from 2,666 to 2,789, whereas the overall number of civilian casualties decreased. The use of suicide and non-suicide improvised explosive devices (IEDs) remained the leading cause of civilian casualties, causing almost half of all civilian casualties. Civilians living in Nangarhar, Kabul, Helmand, Ghazni and Faryab were most impacted by the conflict. ?