Washington: The number of Afghan national security troops killed in combat shot up almost 80 per cent during this summer`s fighting season, compared with the same time in 2012, as Afghans take the lead in the fight across the country.
A Pentagon report says that US and coalition deaths, meanwhile, dropped by almost 60 per cent during the same six-month period. The Defence Department refused to release numbers to explain the percentages, but US military leaders have said that the number of Afghans killed each week had spiked to more than 100 earlier this year.
The high number of casualties and the Afghans` limited ability to evacuate their wounded, "adversely affects morale, retention and recruiting," according to the report, which the Defence Department released yesterday.
A senior US military official, when asked about the casualty rate, said late last month that as the fighting season begins to wind down and winter approaches, the Afghan deaths had also started to decline. In one recent week, about 50 were killed in action, said the official, who spoke to reporters at a recent NATO meeting and requested anonymity because of NATO rules.
The Pentagon report covers the time period from April 1, 2013, to September 30, 2013, before snow and cold temperatures begin to make travel difficult.
The drop in US and coalition casualties reflects the Afghans` increased role taking the lead of combat operations as well as the ongoing decrease in the number of international forces in the country. As of this week, there are about 48,000 US troops in Afghanistan.
According to the report, Afghan forces now conduct 95 per cent of conventional operations and 98 per cent of special operations in Afghanistan. Coalition forces continue to provide training and assistance but are still needed for air support, security, route clearance for roadside bombs, air lift for wounded or dead troops and counter-terror operations.
Under the current plan, coalition combat forces will leave Afghanistan at the end of next year. Negotiations between the US and the Afghan government are continuing to determine whether a small US force will remain after 2014, and, if so, how many.
US and coalition officials have outlined plans to leave between 8,000-12,000 troops there to train and advise the Afghans, but any decision depends on whether the two sides can finalise a security agreement. The US is expected to provide no more than 8,000, but the number could be substantially fewer depending on the agreement reached.