As more Afghan units take field, ca­su­al­ties in­crease.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Azam Ahmed

More than 1,000 Afghan sol­diers died in 2012, a 20 per­cent in­crease from 2011, as the Afghan government pre­pares to take over se­cu­rity from coali­tion forces.

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — The Afghan government has hit a grim record in its quest to take over the coun­try’s se­cu­rity from coali­tion forces: more than 1,000 sol­diers died in 2012, a roughly 20 per­cent in­crease from 2011.

Though the Afghan army’s death rates have out­stripped those for in­ter­na­tional forces in re­cent years, the new fig­ures show the widest mar­gin yet, as more and more Afghan units have taken the field — in­ter­na­tional troops were re­ported to have lost about 400 sol­diers in 2012, the low­est num­ber since 2008.

The progress of the Afghan army in be­ing able to fight the in­sur­gency is cru­cial to the in­ter­na­tional coali­tion’s exit strat­egy as the for­mal end of NATO com­bat op­er­a­tions looms in 2014.

Afghan of­fi­cials say Afghan forces now plan and lead 80 per­cent of com­bat op­er­a­tions across the coun­try.

And as the army has filled out its ranks, the num­ber of those killed has risen as well.

Since 2008, the num­ber of en­listed ANA sol­diers has nearly tripled, to 195,000.

But de­pend­ing on how one reads the num­bers, the lat­est fig­ures can be both hope­ful and trou­bling.

Inas­much as the uptick in deaths in­di­cate a more ac­tive role for the army, the data is en­cour­ag­ing: Afghan-led op­er­a­tions should re­sult in more Afghan ca­su­al­ties, af­ter all.

But for some, the statis­tics also raise ques­tions about whether the army is ready to take over con­trol of the coun­try’s se­cu­rity.

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