The top U.S. watchdog for Afghanistan highlighted the trend in a report to Congress released Tuesday. The number of troops in the Afghan army shrunk from 184,839 to 169,203 between fall 2013 and fall 2014, the smallest number since August 2011, according to John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).
U.S. Forces-Afghanistan reported that the number of Afghan police was up 3,122 to 156,439 in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2014, but SIGAR questioned whether some of those police had been counted twice and said the actual number may be closer to 151,272. That would amount to a decrease of 2,045 in one quarter.
“Attrition continues to be a major challenge for the ANSF. Between September 2013 and September 2014, more than 40,000 personnel were dropped from ANA rolls,” SIGAR said in the report, using acronyms for the Afghan National Security Forces and Afghan National Army. “Moreover, the ANA continues to suffer serious combat losses. Between October 2013 and September 2014, more than 1,300 ANA personnel were killed in action (KIA) and 6,200 were wounded in action (WIA).”
Many statistics about the Afghan National Security Forces were classified late last year by Gen. John F. Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. SIGAR cited him in its quarterly report released in January for withholding information about the Afghan military and police that had been previously released to the public.
Sopko said in his new supplemental report that he and Campbell met last month, and the general said his command had decided to declassify “the bulk of the material that it had classified only days before.” Some information about Afghan troop levels, future requirements for the Afghan Air Force and the Afghan Special Mission Wing remain classified, but the supplemental report adds a new level of detail to the public debate about the future of Afghanistan.
The release of the report comes as Afghanistan’s new leaders, President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, prepare for a March visit to the United States for a strategic dialogue with the Obama administration. Announced Friday, it will likely focus on the future U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.