Afghan forces now bearing brunt of war violence
NATO troop deaths are decreasing, as many countries continue withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, handing more responsibility to Afghan forces. But as Afghan troops have been pushed out on their own, often without the weaponry or bomb-detecting technology of NATO forces, they have been bearing the brunt of the war's violence. On Saturday, at least 21 policemen were killed by bombs in Kunduz, Kandahar, Ghazni, and Farah provinces.
Afghan officials said numbers for the year are incomplete, but between the army and national police, at least 2,071 troops were killed in 2012, with more than double that number injured, as compared to 2,177 U.S. servicemembers killed in the entire war, according to independent website iCasualties. For Western nations, whose publics have long been weary of an effort that seems to have locked into a stalemate, such numbers would be untenable. Even for Afghans, accustomed to nearly constant war over the past three decades, losing the equivalent of a brigade's worth of troops each year to death and injury is taking a toll.
The spike in casualties comes at a time when Afghan units can still rely on NATO troops for backup and, most importantly, air power assets likely to diminish over the next two years, as international militaries withdraw ahead of the Dec. 31, 2014 deadline for all combat troops to leave Afghanistan.
Afghanistan's security forces are still dependent on international troops for air support -- a situation unlikely to improve anytime soon with the recent scrapping of the entire fleet of Afghan C-27A cargo planes due to lack of spare parts. Afghan troops lack intelligence capabilities, artillery and effective countermeasures against roadside bombs, by far the biggest killer of Afghan soldiers, Ministry of Defense spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said.
In a country beset by joblessness, where most recruits join the military for a paycheck rather than patriotism, the increasing danger of military service is driving some out of the ranks. The Afghan security forces are currently close to their goal of 350,000 troops, but maintaining that is a challenge with a turnover rate of around one-third of the force annually. Compounding the increasing danger of the job, the cronyism that runs rampant through the Afghan government can have life or death consequences in the military, where the well-connected often get cushy postings in safe districts while their less fortunate comrades serve in insurgent-plagued regions.
nsurgents can rely on continued support from Pakistan and other regional powers, and Afghan troops will need assurances that they can rely on Western nations not only for backup but also to ensure the government they're fighting for has the resources to stay in power.
Posted by: Pappy 2013-01-28