- Through peace talks with the Taliban, the US is moving closer towards a complete withdrawal the 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan.
- In the event of a complete withdrawal of US-led NATO forces, the fate of Afghanistan will rest in the hands of its National Army soldiers.
- Since 2014, the focus of the NATO mission has been to train Afghan soldiers to take over their country’s security.
- A recent watchdog report found that the strength of the Afghan forces is at its lowest level in four years.
As US and Taliban officials move closer to reaching a deal during ongoing peace talks, the fate of Afghanistan may soon rest in the hands of its national army soldiers.
The US-led NATO mission shifted its focus towards training these security forces in 2014, drawing back combat troops in an attempt to hand control to the Afghan government.
But the training mission has struggled to recruit and maintain the number of forces the nation will need, and a recent report by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) notes the strength of the Afghan National Army is at its lowest in four years.
Afghan’s security forces have borne devastating losses in the fight against the Taliban and other insurgent groups. These losses and the rising power of the Taliban have dropped Afghan forces to their lowest strength in four years.
In 2014, NATO forces shifted their focus away from combat.
The US-led NATO mission in Afghanistan has struggled to reach and maintain its goals for the country’s security forces, even with 22,000 troops on the ground.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said that since he took office in 2014 some 45,000 members of the country’s security forces have been killed.
According to the SIGAR report, that amounts to nearly 850 soldiers per month.
The Afghan forces have also struggled to recruit and retain soldiers.
According to Reuters, the Afghan security forces have low levels of re-enlistment and also have issues with unauthorised absences.
The Afghan security forces have decreased to only 87% of their assigned strength.
According to SIGAR, this is the lowest level since the creation of the NATO mission in January 2015.
SIGAR also cited significant problems recruiting and retaining women in the Afghan Army.
According to the report, women in the Afghan National Army make up less than 2% of its assigned strength.
The strength of the Afghan forces is at its lowest level in four years, raising serious concerns about the future of the country in the event of a complete withdrawal of NATO forces.
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