May 1 (UPI) -- The U.S.-led NATO task force in Afghanistan has stopped releasing information on the number of Taliban attacks, now deeming the information too sensitive to publicize, a U.S. military watchdog says.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, established by Congress in 2008 to keep watch over U.S. funds spent in Afghanistan, said in its quarterly report Friday coalition forces are withholding data on "enemy-initiated attacks."
Special Inspector General John Sopko criticized the move, saying the decision eliminated "one of the last remaining metrics SIGAR was able to use to report publicly on the security situation in Afghanistan" after coalition forces discontinued a system in 2018 that assessed Taliban control of individual districts.
Sopko said the coalition cited sensitivity of ongoing negotiations between the Taliban, the Afghan government and the United States as the reason for halting the information.
"[Enemy-initiated attacks] are now a critical part of deliberative inter-agency discussions regarding ongoing political negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban," U.S. military officials told SIGAR, adding that the data may again become releasable to the public once the deliberative process ends.
The discussions are part of a February peace deal between the United States and Taliban, under which U.S. forces will leave Afghanistan in exchange for power-sharing negotiations between Kabul and the militant group.
While they didn't release actual data on Taliban attacks in the first quarter, U.S. officials did tell SIGAR the group refrained from targeting NATO coalition forces during the period, and instead focussed their fire on Afghan government security forces.
Kabul has said Taliban attacks are responsible for killing and injuring dozens of soldiers and hundreds of civilians since the peace deal was signed Feb. 29.
U.S. officials told SIGAR the Afghan government maintains control of Kabul and major population centers, but the Taliban, while reducing attacks in provincial capitals, is pushing for control in other areas.