Afghan Forces’ Casualties Climbing in 2016

Afghan Forces’ Casualties Climbing in 2016Afghan Forces’ Casualties Climbing in 2016

Afghan forces are suffering rising levels of battlefield casualties this year after unprecedented numbers of police and soldiers were killed and wounded in 2015, the top US commander in Afghanistan said.

US Army General John Nicholson, in some of his first remarks since the United States last week scaled back its withdrawal plans, told a small group of reporters that the rising casualties were largely the result of Taliban attacks on fixed Afghan positions, Reuters reported.

“This year, we’re seeing more tactical success (by the Afghans) on the battlefield but more casualties as well,” Nicholson said late on Saturday when asked about how Afghan forces were faring this year compared with 2015. He did not disclose figures.

A spokesman told Reuters on Sunday that Nicholson was referring to an increase so far in 2016 compared with the same period in 2015 and noted how fighting was more intense due to the milder winter this year.

“It’s when they’re in a defensive posture, such as in checkpoints being overrun, is where the majority of the casualties are occurring,” Nicholson said.

More than 5,000 forces in Afghanistan were killed in action and over 14,000 were wounded in 2015, when the Taliban staged a series of attacks that upended US assumptions about the ability of Afghan forces to secure the country after more than 14.5 years of war.

On July 6, US President Barack Obama scrapped plans to slash the number of US forces to 5,500 troops from 9,800 before he leaves office, citing precarious security in Afghanistan. Obama now plans to leave around 8,400 US troops.

US allies are also renewing their commitments and NATO agreed on Saturday to help fund Afghan forces to the tune of around $1 billion annually over the next three years.

Nicholson praised Afghan forces for being able to recruit new fighters and carry on, despite the casualty rates. He said their losses could be addressed, including by replicating successful efforts to rapidly reset and retrain Afghan forces in southern Helmand province after their dismal performance last year.