Afghanistan describes attack on journalists as "a crime against press, humanity"

11 children killed in Afghan suicide attack on foreign convoy

The latest report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) paints a grim picture of the security situation in the war-torn country, and comes even as the United States military asserts that Afghan troops and US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces are seeing progress in the grueling, 16.5-year-old conflict.

The Afghan National Army had fallen to just 85 percent of its authorized strength by the end of January, and the Afghan National Police to 93 percent. Snubbing an offer of peace talks by President Ashraf Ghani, the Taliban last week announced the launch of its annual spring offensive.

"These cowardly attacks are part of a pattern of violence against Afghan journalists, who display great courage every day as they practice a craft essential to democracy", Mr. Sopko said.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Monday U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan and Syria for the long term, to leverage a diplomatic solution to ongoing conflicts.

Mattis said that the joint forces have been able to block many attacks on civilians, but that "unfortunately once in a while they get through. this is simply what they do; they murder innocent people".

More than 8,000 USA special forces remain in the country supporting Afghan troops, although North Atlantic Treaty Organisation combat operations officially ended in 2014.

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"So the expansion there is why the enemy has been unable to take any district centers provincial centers or make any advances there, ?"

In a further attack, 11 children were killed and 16 people wounded, including Romanian and Afghan security force members, when a suicide attacker exploded his vehicle near a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation convoy in the southern province of Kandahar, officials said.

The SIGAR report did not specify the reasons for the dramatic decline in Afghan force numbers, aside from some shifts of personnel between security branches.

U.S. Forces-Afghanistan did recently release information related to population, control over land and other areas.

"We both share an interest in countering the terrorists who threaten our country and threaten Russian Federation and threaten Central Asia", General John Nicholson said on April 27 on the sidelines of a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reported. Insurgents now control 14.5 percent of all districts in Afghanistan, an increase of three percentage points since 2016.

"Building up the Afghan forces is a top priority for the USA and our global allies, so it is worrisome to see Afghan force strength decreasing", SIGAR chief John Sopko said.

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