April 30 (UPI) -- Taliban insurgents are behind an 80% increase in "insider attacks" against security forces in Afghanistan this year -- just months ahead of a deadline for a total U.S. military withdrawal, a watchdog report said Friday.
The quarterly report to U.S. Congress by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, said 115 security personnel were killed and almost 40 were injured in fighting over the first three months of 2021.
The Afghan National Defense and Security Force also saw substantially higher casualties over that span, compared to the same period last year.
According to the assessment, U.S. and coalition forces faced no insider attacks against their personnel between January and April. Halting such attacks was a condition for a peace agreement that was preliminary reached last year between the Taliban and U.S. officials.
U.S. President Joe Biden announced earlier this month that the Pentagon will remove all American forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that sent troops to the country in the first place.
Friday's report said between the start of the campaign in late 2001 and this month, 1,900 U.S. military personnel have been killed in action in Afghanistan and another 415 died from non-hostile causes. More than 20,000 American service members have been injured in action during the military campaign, which was the opening salvo in former President George W. Bush's war on terror.
In addition to the 82% rise in insider attacks, the report also blames the Taliban for continued target killings around Afghanistan.
"U.S. officials have decried the violence," the SIGAR report states. "Violence trends this quarter continued to include high-profile targeted killings of Afghan government officials and journalists, some suspected to have been perpetrated by the Taliban, by Islamic State-Khorasan, or by unknown groups."
The report says a religious scholar was targeted by the Islamic State in Kabul and unknown assailants killed a commercial court judge in Jalalabad in February. A month later, three female media workers were killed by the Islamic State near Jalalabad in two separate incidents and gunmen later killed three female polio vaccination health workers in the city.
Created by Congress in 2008, SIGAR is responsible for audits and investigations relating to fighting and reconstruction in Afghanistan. It is required by law to submit summary reports each quarter.
"I believe SIGAR and its mission will assume even more importance for the United States under this new posture [to withdraw from Afghanistan]," Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko states in the report.
"As the largest oversight presence in Afghanistan and the only one with statutory whole-of-government authority, SIGAR will be the only government agency capable of overseeing the billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars already appropriated that will continue to flow into the country despite the absence of U.S. military boots on the ground."