The Afghan security forces suffered a record number of casualties in the first six months after the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan ended last December.
Taliban insurgents have stepped up their attacks against the Afghan soldiers and police officers that make up the country’s security forces. President Obama ended the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan in December 2014, the end of the deadliest year for Afghan soldiers and police officers since the war started in October 2001.
The fatality rate is even worse this year, reports The New York Times. It is on pace to exceed the death toll in 2014, when about 5,000 Afghan soldiers and police officers where killed.
The casualty rate, which includes deaths and injuries, is “up more than 50 percent compared with the first six months of 2014,” notes The Times.
Citing data obtained from an official with the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, The Times reports that “About 4,100 Afghan soldiers and police officers have been killed and about 7,800 wounded” in the first six months of 2015.
The Afghan security forces are reportedly struggling to maintain a stalemate and a relative presence in the territory handed over by the departing U.S. and NATO combat troops.
“A range of interviews with army and police commanders and regional government officials in crucial battleground areas indicated that even though the Afghan forces have nominally met their goal of maintaining a presence in every city and all but a very few district centers, they are often functionally penned in by the Taliban, rarely mounting patrols, much less taking territory back,” notes The Times.
“At the same time, they say the insurgents have increased their influence in many areas, even near cities, giving them the ability to move freely and mount intensified attacks on the Afghan forces,” it continues.
On Wednesday, a suicide bomber, who was targeting military forces in northern Afghanistan, attacked a crowded market, killing 19 civilians and wounding 38 others. The attack occurred amid other Taliban assaults in Faryab province’s Almar district.
Although no one has claimed responsibility for the blast, suspicion immediately fell on the Taliban.
In November 2014, Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, a senior commander for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan at the time, said the Afghan security forces were dying at an unsustainable rate.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a watchdog agency appointed by Congress, cast doubt on whether Afghan security forces will be able to protect their own country after the U.S. military draws down to a small force at the end of 2016.
President Obama is expected to make a decision this year on whether he will follow though with withdrawing nearly all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016.
The U.S. has appropriated $62.5 billion to develop Afghanistan’s security institution.