In its recent report, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has stated that, compared to 2015, in 2016, the casualties of the Afghan security forces have remarkably increased.
After the publication of this report, the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has stressed on ending these casualties and has stated that measures and proper plans must be undertaken to end these fatalities. In response to this report, the Afghan Ministry of Interior has said that given the intensification of the attacks of the government’s armed opposition in this year, the fatalities of the Afghan forces have not had considerable increase.
After the end of the NATO’s military mission and beginning of its consulting and training mission in Afghanistan, it is almost two years since the Afghan security forces are responsible for maintaining security in the country but their casualties are increasing. The statistics of the Afghan security forces’ casualties in the past one and half decade and the main reasons behind increase in these casualties in 2016 are analyzed here.
Casualties of the Afghan security forces after 2001
After 2002, the Afghan forces had casualties every year. In 2007, 2008 and 2009 respectively 966, 983 and 931 Afghan soldiers were killed. In 2010, when the war was unprecedentedly intensified, 2113 Afghan soldiers were killed. Although the number of Afghan soldiers’ death decreased in 2011 and fell to 1080 but in the years after that, this number was rapidly on the rise.
In 2011, security transition to Afghan forces began and, thus, after 2011, the fatalities of the Afghan force increased. In 2012, 2013 and 2014 the fatalities of Afghan forces was respectively 2765, 4350 and 4634. But in 2015, 7000 Afghan soldiers were killed and 12000 others were injured. (Chart-1)
In 2015, the casualties of the Afghan security forces marks a 27% increase. Fall of Kunduz, security transition to Afghan forces, intensified Taliban attacks and vast operation of the Afghan forces against the armed oppositions of the Afghan government were the main reasons behind the rise in these casualties.
Between 2007 and 2015, a total number of 24820 Afghan soldiers were killed and if we add the deaths of the first eight months of 2016 to this number, it rises to 30000 while tens of thousands others are injured during this period.
Chart-1: casualties of the Afghan security forces
Source: BBC, Radio Azadi, and FAS
Increase in the fatalities of the Afghan forces in 2016
In its recent report released on 30 October 2016, SIGAR has announced that from 1 January to 19 August 2016, 5523 Afghan soldiers are killed and 9665 others are injured which signifies 9% increase compared to the casualties in the same period in 2015. In the same period in 2015, around 5000 Afghan soldiers were killed and around 15 thousand others were injured. Given the continuation of the attacks of the Afghan government’s armed opposition, the fatalities of the Afghan security forces would probably further increase.
According to SIGAR’s report, the number of security incidents had also increased compared to last year and based on the statistics of the United Nations, from May 20 to August 15 (88 days), there were 5996 incidents in the country which signifies 7.4% increase compared to the same period last year.
Fall of the districts and government controlled territories
As in this year, war in 2015 was also intensified and many districts, therefore, fall into the hands of the Taliban. According to a report of the Long War Journal in October 2015, from 398 districts in the country, 31 were under the Taliban control and in 36 others; the Taliban controlled the districts except its center which was under the government control.
The report had stated that the Afghan government does not sincerely report the situation in the districts. Chardara and Dasht-e-Archi in Kunduz, Kuhistan in Sar-e-Pol, Jund in Badghis, Nava in Ghazni, Yamgan in Badakhshan, Nawzad and Khanshin in Helmand, Want Waygel in Noristan, Ghurmach in Faryab, Tala-wa-Barfack and Dand-e-Ghori in Baghlan were districts that fell at the hands of the Taliban last year. Improper government policies such as forming militia forces, improper behavior of the local police with local residents and poor management were factors that facilitated the fall of these districts.
Currently, as in report of SIGAR, 33 districts in 16 provinces of the country are under control or influence of the government’s armed oppositions and war continues in many others.
According to the report, 63.4% of the Afghan soil is under government control, and only in the past three months the Afghan government has lost control over 2% of its territory. In the meanwhile, General John Nicolson the Commander of the US forces in Afghanistan had said in September this year that the Afghan government controls 68 to 70% of its territory. Thus, it means that almost one third of Afghanistan’s soil is under the control of the government’s armed oppositions and, according to SIGAR, that is why the main challenge on the way of construction efforts are armed violence by the Taliban and other armed groups.
Factors behind the higher casualty rate
Various factors were behind the increasing casualties of the Afghan forces in the past several years, the most important of which are as such:
Security transition: Prior to 2010, when the foreign forces were responsible for military operations in most of the regions in the country, the Afghan security forces had lesser casualties, but after 2011, when security responsibilities were gradually transiting to Afghan force, and after the complete security transition to Afghan forces in 2015, the role of Afghan forces increased in the battlefield and thus their casualties also increased.
Intensification of war: in recent years not only war is intensified in the country, but it also expanded to the regions that were relatively secure in the past and the Taliban appeared in the battlefield with more preparation and carried out many attacks.
Lack of equipment: due to lack of equipment and ammunition, the Afghan security forces were surrounded by the armed oppositions of the government in many areas and suffered high casualties. Today, due to lack of equipment and ammunition, the Afghan army is one of the poorest in the region and world. In the past fourteen years, vast amounts of aid were infused in Afghanistan particularly in security sectors, but still, in terms of ammunition and equipment, the Afghan security forces are far from well-equipped.
Lack of coordination and poor management: the US Commander in Afghanistan General John Nicolson had warned last week that “failure and weakness” in management and leading the Afghan security forces has increased their casualties.
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 Enhancing security and stability in Afghanistan, US Department of Defense, December-2015:
 SIGAR, Quarterly Report to the United States Congress, October 30 2016, see it online: