The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) January 2018 Quarterly Report to the United States Congress was heavily edited by Resolute Support Headquarters which resulted in key data relating to security in Afghanistan being deleted from the report. Resolute Support and the U.S. Department of Defense took a considerable amount of 'heat' over the omission and this was quickly reversed.
A new 17-page addendum to the latest quarterly report has now been published that includes data originally missing. For the most part this addendum includes information on territorial and population control. One of the metrics used in assessing the success or failure of the Resolute Support Mission and that of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) is to measure that percentage of population under the control of the government and the amount of territory under the control of the government.
It is a little bit more complicated than that - as different criteria are used. For instance a district can be under insurgent control or influence. A district can be contested. Or a district can be under government control or influence. And it matters on whether you are measuring population or territory. Much of the Afghan population lives in district capitals, provincial capitals, major cities, and Kabul. Most of these major towns and cities are firmly under the control of the Afghan security forces. So using a percentage of the population as a measurement is probably (from the Afghan government or RS viewpoint) better than the number of districts (as many districts are in rural areas). USFOR-A and RS use a RS District Assessment Methodology that is described in the SIGAR report.
The RS methodology has some built in faults. For instance for a district to be under insurgent influence there has to be no government or security presence in the district center. A district center is usually a walled compound with 3 to 8 buildings where the district governor (DGov), district chief of police (DCoP), and other government representatives (MRRD, MAIL, etc.) have offices. By this criteria, even if the security forces cannot venture out of the gates of the compound, the DGov (and other government ministry representatives are not present - and who determines whether they report to work or not), and the district center is resupplied by helicopter with fuel, food, ammunition, and more; the district is considered not under insurgent influence. The insurgents may roam freely throughout the district with firm control of the roads, market, and outlying areas but they still do not have district influence. A more accurate picture of district control is provided by the Long War Journal.
Learn more about district control.
Read the SIGAR addendum.