Thu, Dec 06, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Afghan security losses not sustainable: US official

Reuters, WASHINGTON

The Pentagon’s pick for the next commander of US Central Command on Tuesday said that the high casualty rate of Afghan security forces would not be sustainable even with the stalemate in the fight against Taliban militants.

“Their losses have been very high. They are fighting hard, but their losses are not going to be sustainable unless we correct this problem,” Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie said during a US Senate Committee on Armed Services hearing.

The assessment comes as both Western-backed security forces and the Taliban have pushed to gain momentum as the US has stepped up efforts to find a peaceful settlement to end the 17-year-long war in Afghanistan.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said last month that since 2015 more than 28,000 members of the Afghan security forces had been killed.

McKenzie said the US would have to work with Afghan forces to improve how they recruit, train and carry out missions.

Afghan forces were not capable of securing the mountainous South Asian country without help from the nearly 14,000 US troops deployed there, he added.

“If we left precipitously right now, I do not believe they would be able to successfully defend their country,” McKenzie said.

He said he did not know how long it would take for Afghan forces to be self-sufficient and that Taliban fighters were estimated at 60,000.

US President Donald Trump wants to end the conflict between Afghan security forces and the Taliban, who are fighting to drive out international forces and reestablish their version of strict Islamic law after their 2001 ouster.

McKenzie said he was unaware of any plans to significantly change the US military footprint in Afghanistan.

Recent attacks underscore the pressure on Afghanistan’s overstretched security forces, suffering from their highest-ever level of casualties, estimates from the NATO-led “Resolute Support” mission show.

The Kabul government no longer releases exact casualty figures, but officials say at least 500 men are being killed each month and hundreds more wounded, a tally many consider low.

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