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Coalition and Afghan military deaths since 2007

June 14, 2013
ISAF deaths in blue, Afghan military deaths in yellow

ISAF deaths in blue, Afghan military deaths in yellow

By Tim Foxley

Summary:  The Afghan army – slow improvements amidst rising casualties.

I was struck by this piece of information.  This chart from a BBC report by David Loyn about the Afghan army capabilities and casualties.  It shows very clearly the increasing trend of casualties being suffered by the ANSF relative to the ISAF forces.   Everything points to 2013 being an even more deadly year.  One can only speculate at the level of wounded associated with this figure.   But it doesn’t necessarily point to imminent collapse.  The BBC notes the positive and negative:

During a recent reporting assignment in that area, I saw far more competent Afghan forces than I have witnessed before.  They had high morale, good equipment, were using GPS and other modern equipment with confidence and had the ability to call in accurate artillery strikes from several kilometres away. This could make all the difference as they operate on their own – replacing the Nato air support that they have relied on up to now. It will be some time before the Afghan forces are equipped with significant air power. The growing competence is seen in the response to several recent attacks on the Afghan capital, Kabul.

In two of the attacks in the last month, militants seized buildings and needed to be confronted. Newly trained rapid reaction police acted swiftly to retake control. Civilian casualties have been very low. But the pressures on these forces are substantial. As well as death and injury, the Afghan police and army are losing thousands to desertion, at an attrition rate that requires them to sign up 50,000 new recruits every year to replace those lost.

This is “unsustainable”, according to Gen Nick Carter, the deputy commander of Isaf and most senior British general in the country.

It is also worth remembering that quality of care in the Afghan military hospitals is pretty poor.

But I guess one could also speculate on some other causes of casualties of the Afghan army:

  • Poor individual training
  • Lack of access/support from heavier weapons
  • Support arms generally less capable (medical, intelligence, planning, logistics)
  • Being asked to do a lot/too much before they are ready
  • Complexity of COIN-type operations
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10 Comments leave one →
  1. June 15, 2013 4:22 am

    I’m wondering how air support for casualty evacuation affects the numbers. I know that ISAF assures us that the situation is improving, but it’s been a challenge for the ANA.

  2. June 15, 2013 10:15 am

    …and stats harder to come by, of course. I suspect the ISAF “Golden Hour” level of service (have battlefield casualty into proper hospital within 60 minutes) will no longer apply apart from when ISAF are accompanying ANSF. More anecdotally on the Afghan side, this was what I noted from Candace Rondeaux at the DIIS conference I went to in April:

    “Rondeaux noted that the Afghan Air Force has extremely high levels of corruption (in one incident, ANSF troops could not count on helicopters to help remove battlefield casualties because said helicopters were being used to move illegal drugs). The air force could not count on being given jets any time soon…”

  3. June 15, 2013 5:48 pm

    This is the second time this week I have heard a horror story about corruption levels. (The other one was not from a journalist, but from someone who just returned from a tour.) I can’t see anyway you can end the drug activity, short of executing all participants! It’s just too lucrative, too easy, and too much the result of our initial careless with the ANA. I’m not a millitary historian, but now I’m wondering what the classic text is for how to build a strong, functioning army! (I remember JAG officers coming to speak to my COIN class two years ago, telling a story of 20,000 pairs of boots ordered for the ANA, 10,000 of which went missing and turned up in the bazaar. Obviously, that was NOTHING, but when you multiply it by a million times, it cannot be turned back.

  4. June 15, 2013 6:04 pm

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-21547542 You probably don’t want to read this then… :)

    • June 15, 2013 6:32 pm

      Oh, I’m in contact with Ben! No, not a perfect army, granted, but I do think some initial bad decsions will haunt us, and in fairness, I’m not sure they could have been avoided (I mean alliances with people like Dostum…) I don’t want to speculate, but I think the chai boy issue, is only one example of the breakdown of discipline and control. There are others that will more long-term destructive consequences (I don’t mean for that to sound so cold and unconcerned, but I think drug-trade alliances could potentially break the Afghan state.)

  5. June 15, 2013 6:06 pm

    Actually, I’m not sure you can blame it all on “initial carelessness” either – this was never going to be a perfect army in the timeframe we were then looking at

  6. June 22, 2013 11:42 am

    Not at all happy with Loyn’s assessment of Afghan troop readiness, particularly as it’s in stark contrast to anything anyone else is reporting. Also, his ANA fatalities sourcing is a little disingenuous, as he’s basing that off of the occasional presser the ANA throws wherein they report mass numbers. Fact is, we don’t know how many ANSF casualties there are, and probably never will.

    Particularly troubling is his assertion re: ANA artillery capabilities, as he doesn’t mention whether they actually managed to fire the pieces accurately, merely that they had the ability to do so. This reads like a PR-happy embed in that section, honestly.

  7. June 23, 2013 8:35 pm

    Thanks Gary – yes, I think accurate sources will become more problematic as the months and years go forward and international interest and int and info gathering platforms dry up. To be fair-ish on Loyn, he is probably suffering from this problem. Also – the proof in the ANSF heavy support weapons capabilitties will be judged by the collateral damage…

  8. sajjad permalink
    September 29, 2013 7:03 am

    afghan national army is strong until and unless the international community is funding them the funding should stop when afg govt afford the cost army
    and if u the army to be effective and efficient they must have strong air force other wise their casuality will be more

  9. sajjad permalink
    September 29, 2013 7:05 am

    afghan national army is strong until and unless the international community is funding them the funding should stop when afg govt afford the cost army
    and if u want to the army to be effective and efficient they must have strong air force other wise their casuality will be more

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