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Afghan Defense Forces At Lowest Levels Since 2015 - SIGAR Report

© AP Photo / Abdul KhaliqAfghan troops walk through the village of Laki , in Helmand province's Garmsir district, south of Kabul, Afghanistan (File)
Afghan troops walk through the village of Laki , in Helmand province's Garmsir district, south of Kabul, Afghanistan (File) - Sputnik International
According to a new report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, Afghan military and police force strength has declined by 20% since its previous quarterly report, reaching its lowest levels since 2015. However, the change might be due to a new tallying method.

As of late May, there were only 272,465 soldiers and police on the Afghan payroll, according to SIGAR - a 20% drop from the 352,000 recorded in December and noted in the previous quarterly report, issued on April 30.

The watchdog’s newest report, issued on July 30, notes that the total, which includes 9,554 fewer army and air force personnel and nearly 25,000 fewer police, was probably so much lower than before because of the new Afghan Personnel and Pay System, as this was the first staffing tally to count forces using those biometrically enrolled in the system.

APPS is part of Kabul’s ongoing effort to crack down on corruption, particularly the collection of paychecks issued to so-called “ghost” police - former officers who are still being paid, “even if they have resigned, been terminated, or killed,” the report notes.

However, SIGAR notes that other Afghan efforts to combat corruption are way down. The Afghan government recovered only 0.2% of the $185.2 million in financial penalties imposed by the Anti-Corruption Justice Center (ACJC). The ACJC’s independent prosecutors focus their efforts on high-profile corruption cases, targeting generals, provincial leaders and even deputy government ministers. This is despite a sharp increase in prosecutions since 2018, SIGAR notes.

A previous SIGAR report in 2018 eviscerated the ACJC, blasting the anti-corruption center as itself corrupt, Sputnik reported.

NATO’s mission in Afghanistan, Resolute Support, reported to SIGAR 6,445 enemy-initiated attacks since March 31, with more than half of them occurring in five of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces: Helmand, Badghis, Faryab, Herat and Farah. This is a 9% increase from the previous quarter, but 10% less than the same period last year, Stars and Stripes noted.

On Tuesday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) decried Afghan civilian deaths as “shocking and unacceptable,” although the number of civilians killed or wounded in the country so far this year was also much lower than at this time last year, with 1,366 civilians killed and 2,446 injured, according to UNAMA. However, SIGAR’s report only records 757 killed and 1,949 civilians wounded between January 1 and May 31, 2019.

Last October, Resolute Support informed SIGAR it would no longer be reporting “district control data” showing what percentage of the Afghan population is controlled by the Taliban, saying the data was of little use. Sputnik noted the news paralleled denunciations of the practice by US President Donald Trump, who said the reports “should be private,” since what’s available to the public is available to the enemy as well.

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