Afghan forces have continued to lose ground to insurgents throughout the country since taking over security responsibilities from NATO at the end of 2014, a report by a U.S. watchdog said on February 1.
As of mid-November, the government controlled or influenced 57.2 percent of Afghanistan's 407 districts, a 6.2 percent decrease from August and a 15 percent reduction from a year earlier, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said in the report.
At present, almost one-third of the Afghan population or 9.2 million people "live in areas that are contested," it said, and about 2.5 million people live under the control or influence of the insurgency, down from 2.9 million three months ago.
It was unclear why the population directly controlled by the Taliban shrank. One factor could be larger than expected internal displacement caused by the conflict.
The United Nations estimates that nearly 640,000 Afghans had to flee their homes in 2016.
Meanwhile, the report found that the death rate among Afghan forces soared by 35 percent last year, prompting it to conclude that the Afghan government and security forces need continued support and cannot survive without donor assistance.