The U.S.-backed Afghan Security Forces are losing up to four times more men than they can recruit to replace them, The New York Times reports.
The casualties are so high, the Afghan Security Forces and associated police forces could shrink by 10,000 men per year at the current rate. The entire U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is predicated on building a strong Afghan central government, with a military capable of defeating the Taliban and holding territory.
The Afghan forces are suffering catastrophic casualties since the end of the U.S. combat mission in 2001. The New York Times reports nearly 4,500 were killed between March and August alone, with another 8,000 wounded. A recent report from The Washington Post found that the Afghans lost 900 men in the month of July alone, and are averaging nearly 18 deaths per day.
Amid these huge increases in casualties, the Taliban now controls more territory in Afghanistan than at any time since the U.S. invasion in 2001. The Taliban is capitalizing on territorial gain by launching multiple attacks on major cities, hundreds of miles apart, at the same time. Reports indicate both the major cities of Kunduz and Lashkar Gah are besieged by Taliban militants, stretching the response ability by Afghan forces.
If the Taliban is able to capture the city from U.S.-backed Afghan Security Forces, it will mark just the second seizure of a major city since the U.S. invasion in 2001.
“I don’t buy the argument that casualty rates in and of themselves are unsustainable — I have fought alongside Afghan forces. When soldiers are well-led and fighting for a government that they believe in, they are willing to endure enormous sacrifices,” former soldier in Afghanistan and expert Chistopher Kolenda told The New York times. He grimly warned, “The real concern becomes when people no longer believe in putting their lives on the line for their leaders or government. Certainly the reports of low morale and on the deficit in recruitment are disconcerting.”
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