NATO con­cerned by high Afghan se­cu­rity losses

Afghan Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani said nearly 30,000 lo­cal forces had been killed since they took over re­spon­si­bil­ity for se­cu­rity in the war torn coun­try from NATO in 2015

Times of Oman - - OMAN/WORLD -

BRUS­SELS: NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg ex­pressed con­cern on Wed­nes­day about the high ca­su­al­ties among Afghan se­cu­rity forces, af­ter a se­nior US gen­eral warned the death toll was be­com­ing un­sus­tain­able.

Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Ken­neth McKen­zie has warned that un­less re­cruit­ing and train­ing im­prove, lo­cal forces will not over­come the cur­rent ca­su­alty rate. McKen­zie has been nom­i­nated to lead US mil­i­tary’s Cen­tral Com­mand, which over­sees the Afghan war.

Last month, Afghan Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani said nearly 30,000 lo­cal forces had been killed since they took over re­spon­si­bil­ity for se­cu­rity in the war torn coun­try from NATO in 2015 -- far more than pre­vi­ously ac­knowl­edged.

Speak­ing af­ter talks with NATO min­is­ters, Stoltenberg said the is­sue had been a pri­or­ity when he vis­ited Afghanistan re­cently with se­nior mil­i­tary lead­ers and steps were be­ing taken to ad­dress the prob­lem.

“I share the con­cern about the high ca­su­alty rates, but the con­se­quence of that is not to re­duce our pres­ence but to make sure we pro­vide sup­port to en­able them to in­crease their ca­pa­bil­i­ties and their re­silience even more,” Stoltenberg told re­porters in Brus­sels.

McKen­zie told the US Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee at his nom­i­na­tion hear­ing Tues­day that Afghan forces were still un­able to ef­fec­tively with­stand the Tal­iban, who have made steady gains in re­cent years and now num­ber about 60,000 in Afghanistan.

But Afghan For­eign Min­is­ter Salahud­din Rab­bani in­sisted that de­spite the losses, his coun­try’s forces’ re­solve and ap­petite for the fight re­main undimmed.

“We do have ca­su­al­ties, but as far as the de­ter­mi­na­tion and re­solve of the Afghan se­cu­rity forces is con­cerned, be as­sured they are very re­silient in de­fend­ing their ter­ri­tory and their peo­ple against

ter­ror­ist at­tacks,” he said.

Killer blast

With the con­flict mired in stale­mate 17 years af­ter the USled in­va­sion in the wake of the 9/11 at­tacks ousted the Tal­iban from power, Western pow­ers are step­ping up ef­forts to push ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and many US law­mak­ers are grow­ing frus­trated with a suc­ces­sion of gen­er­als promis­ing that things may soon turn a cor­ner and an­gered over the $45 bil­lion or so Amer­ica still pays an­nu­ally for its in­volve­ment in Afghanistan.

Af­ter talks in Brus­sels, for­eign min­is­ters from coun­tries tak­ing part in NATO’s Res­o­lute Sup­port mis­sion re­newed a call for di­rect talks be­tween the Tal­iban and the govern­ment.

Last week, Ghani an­nounced a 12-strong team for prospec­tive talks but the op­ti­mism for peace has been tem­pered by con­tin­u­ing at­tacks, in­clud­ing a blast out­side a Bri­tish se­cu­rity firm in Kabul that killed 10 peo­ple last week.

Stoltenberg warned that as all sides seek to press their ad­van­tage on the bat­tle­field in the runup to talks, the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion “may be­come worse be­fore it be­comes bet­ter”.

NATO has around 16,000 troops in Afghanistan to train, ad­vise and as­sist lo­cal forces.

- File Photo

STEPS TAKEN TO AD­DRESS PROB­LEM: Speak­ing af­ter talks with NATO min­is­ters, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the is­sue had been a pri­or­ity when he vis­ited Afghanistan re­cently with se­nior mil­i­tary lead­ers and steps were be­ing taken to ad­dress the prob­lem.

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