In a January, 2016 file photo, members of the Afghanistan national army train for an air assault mission on Contingency Outpost Connolly in Nangarhar, Afghanistan.

In a January, 2016 file photo, members of the Afghanistan national army train for an air assault mission on Contingency Outpost Connolly in Nangarhar, Afghanistan. (DOD)

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan forces continue to need U.S. and coalition support to address gaps in their offensive capability against insurgents as they enter their third year of full responsibility for the country’s security, the Pentagon said in a report to Congress.

Capabilities in aviation, logistics and offensive clearing oprations are improving, but require further development, the Pentagon said.

“Despite an increasingly offensive-oriented strategy, the Afghan National Army’s offensive maneuver capability is still limited,” the report said. During the summer offensive against the Taliban, “corruption and the (Afghan National Defense and Security Forces’) limited logistics and personnel management capabilities hindered their ability to make lasting gains in reducing insurgent influence in various parts of the country.”

Afghanistan’s army and police forces, which make up the ANDSF, were able to retain control of all of the country’s major population centers this year; however, the Taliban are still said to control more Afghan territory now than at any time since a U.S.-led invasion ousted them from power in 2001.

The Afghan Special Security Forces “remain the most capable element of the Afghan forces and one of the best special operations forces in the region,” the report said. “Although U.S. forces often provide enabling support to the ASSF for counterterrorism operations, the ASSF are capable of conducting independent operations using their organic intelligence and aviation assets.”

However, because of their effectiveness, they are often used for “more conventional missions,” which affects their readiness, the report said.

In 2014, coalition forces transitioned from a combat mission to one that focuses on training, advising and assisting the Afghans. The United States is involved in an additional counterterrorism mission in the country.

“The ANDSF have shown promising but inconsistent progress as they near the end of their third year in the lead for security of their country and the second year maintaining full security responsibility with limited U.S. or coalition support on the battlefield,” the Pentagon said in its report, which examined the period from June 1 to Nov. 30. Based on an assessment of the security situation and the strength of Afghan forces, President Barack Obama in July announced that the United States would reduce troop numbers in Afghanistan to roughly 8,400 by January, instead of the 5,500 that he announced in October last year.

As part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission, the United States also is helping to improve the capabilities of Afghanistan’s Defense and Interior Ministries.

“RS advisors are assisting the MOD and the MOI to develop plans to regenerate ANDSF combat and policing capability as the MOD and the MOI transitions from the 2016 summer to the 2016-2017 winter campaign plan,” the Pentagon said. Twitter: @PhillipWellman

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Phillip is a reporter and photographer for Stars and Stripes, based in Kaiserslautern, Germany. From 2016 to 2021, he covered the war in Afghanistan from Stripes’ Kabul bureau. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics.

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