Kabul, Afghanistan — The Taliban now control more territory than they ever did since 2001 and the U.S. led intervention.

According to the quarterly report of the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the Kabul government and its international partners directly control or indirectly influence only 55.5 percent of Afghanistan’s districts. The Taliban control or influence 12.5 percent of Afghanistan’s districts, a considerable increased from the previous 7 percent in 2015. Equally important, 1/3 of Afghan territory is a contested area.

SIGAR presented the report to the U.S. Congress to examine the progress of what has become America’s longest war — a crucial process given the amount of blood and money that has been poured into the conflict.

According to the report, controlling a district means the complete ability to run and govern it; whereas influencing a district means that one side has the upper hand but doesn’t have complete authority.

SIGAR first began observing the district control levels in late 2015. In November 2015, the Afghan government controlled 72 percent of the districts. The current percentage is the lowest since the tracking began.

Secretary of Defence James Mattis, however, came to the defence of the Afghan war effort. “The Afghan lads are doing the fighting, just look at the casualties, over 1,000 dead and wounded in August and September, and they stayed in the field fighting,” he said.

“It is working from our perspective, but what is heartbreakingly difficult to accept is that progress and violence can be going on at the same time,” added Mattis.

“The Taliban don’t want peace, because they think they can win the war. If it goes on like this, they are going to win,” said Governor Abdul Hai Nimati, the governor of Baghlan province, north of Kabul.