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Afghan forces and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and USA -led coalition troops continued in mopping-up operations as the Taliban militant group has been attempting to take territory and consolidate its positions ahead of winter in the Central Asian country.

The figure, which is the lowest one since the SIGAR began tracking district control in Afghanistan in late 2015, represents a slight decline from the previous quarter (0.7 percentage points) and the same period past year (1.2 points).

The latest quarterly report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) underlines the heavy pressure on the government in Kabul even as the United States has opened initial contacts with the Taliban on possible peace talks.

"While the districts, territory, and population under insurgent control or influence also decreased slightly, the districts, territory, and population "contested" - meaning under neither Afghan government nor insurgent control or influence -increased", it said.

The SIGAR noted that 65 percent of the Afghan population lives in those districts, which are most influenced by the administration of President Ashraf Ghani. The balance - 132 districts - are considered "contested" between the government and insurgent groups.

General John Nicholson, who is now retired but at the time was head of Resolute Support, said in November 2017 that the Afghan security forces would expand control of the population to 80 percent over the next two years.

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Commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces in Afghanistan U.S. General Scott Miller attends a meeting in the Kandahar Governor's Compaund in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Oct. 18, 2018.

Hundreds of people, including scores of civilians, have been killed in Taliban attacks in recent weeks.

Some 353 casualties (149 dead and 204 injured) were the result of airstrikes, up from 232 last year and coinciding with a sharp increase in the number of USA airstrikes this year.

"From the period of May 1 to the most current data as of October 1, 2018, the average number of casualties the (Afghan forces) suffered is the greatest it has ever been during like periods", SGAR quoted RSM as saying.

On Sept. 24, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said that while he could not confirm reports that about 500 police and soldiers had been killed and 700 wounded over the previous month, the figures "sound about right".


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