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Untold story – ANSF casualties

May 14, 2012

By Tim Foxley

This time a drill

A revealing snapshot of information gives an alarming insight to the kind of casualties that the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are suffering.  According to icasualties.org, the Taliban are still managing to inflict casualties on ISAF at a rate of one dead every day.  However, as major ISAF operations decline and international forces tend to consolidate where they already have a strong footing rather than embark on ground-capturing enterprises (remember Marjah?), the brunt of the fighting is increasingly being borne by the ANSF:

General Zaher Azimi

10 May 2012: “48 Afghan National Army personnel killed within 20 days

KABUL: A total of 48 personnel of Afghan army have been killed in the last 20 days in the militancy-hit country, a spokesman for Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.

“As many as 48 Afghan National Army (ANA) personnel lost their lives during military operations and security incidents across the country over the past 20 days,” General Zahir Azimi told reporters in weekly press briefing here.

He said 71 more soldiers and officers had been injured at the same period of time.”

Statistics on ANSF casualties are seemingly much harder to come by, perhaps a function of Afghan Defence Ministry unwillingness to acknowledge, a lack of a government culture of “openness” and still limited experience and capability in collecting and communicating information.  In this respect, icasualties.org, focusing as it does only on ISAF casualty levels, is going to become an increasingly less useful tool for analysts.  Fragmentary pieces of information like the above must of course be treated with caution, but it would suggest Afghan military casualty rates are in the region of twice as much as ISAF.  As the transition of forces continues, these casualty rates will only increase.

I recall reading many years ago that the Russian army had a highly suspect accounting system for their casualties in the Chechen conflict in the 1990s – numbers of dead only included those who died on the battlefield; those that died in Russian hospitals of wounds sustained while in Chechnya did not count against the statistics.  Not saying in any way that this is applicable in Afghanistan, but the treatment of the ANSF wounded is unlikely to be of the quality ISAF forces expect.  You might want to consider this story from last year:

At Afghan Military Hospital, Graft and Deadly Neglect

KABUL—American officers deployed as mentors in Afghanistan’s main military hospital discovered a shocking secret last year: Injured soldiers were routinely dying of simple infections and even starving to death as some corrupt doctors and nurses demanded bribes for food and the most basic of care…The discovery, which hasn’t previously been reported, added new details to longstanding evidence of gross mismanagement at Dawood National Military Hospital, where most salaries and supplies are paid for by American taxpayers.  Yet the patient neglect continued for months after U.S. officials discovered it, as Afghan officials rebuffed American pressure to take action, multiple documents and testimonies viewed by The Wall Street Journal show.

The way senior Afghan officials tolerated such deadly graft shows just how deeply rooted corruption has become in President Hamid Karzai’s administration, as well as the limits of Washington’s ability to rein it in. American advisers have since forced an improvement in conditions at the hospital.  Afghan policeman Ali Noor Hazrat had been admitted to Dawood hospital after being injured in a Taliban rocket attack on a police convoy last fall. Initially patched up by American doctors, he spent his last days starving there while his brother Sher sold off what little land the poor farming family had in order to bribe nurses and doctors for care and food, the brother said in an interview. In photos, Ali’s flesh hangs off his frail, boney frame, his eyes heavy with pain. He died on Dec. 27, Afghan government documents show.”

“Malnourished/starvation,” said an internal coalition slide showing Mr. Hazrat, dated Nov. 5, prepared by American mentors at the hospital to document abuse cases. “Willful neglect,” another bullet point said.”

Casualty levels and treatment after injury will of course have a great impact on morale, recruitment and retention within the ANSF.

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