March 3, 2015 – When Ban Ki-moon last reported Afghan national troop numbers to the Security Council in June last year, he stated that Afghanistan’s army stood at over 185,000 personnel.
But a report released on Tuesday says that the Afghan ministry of defense was reporting incorrect numbers and the actual number of military troops is almost 20,000 less, at a strength of 169,000.
The report, from the U.S. Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, paints a grim picture of the state of the Afghanistan’s security forces who are expected to take the lead security role in the country with the wind down of ISAF.
The United States has spent more than $50 billion in building up, training and paying the salaries of Afghanistan’s military and police forces.
“The military’s inconsistent reporting on ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] strength numbers indicates long-standing and ongoing problems with accountability and personnel tracking. Accurate information is necessary to assess Afghanistan’s ability to maintain security and to determine the pace of U.S. troops withdrawals from the country,” the Inspector General’s report states. “It is also key to ensuring the United States is paying to train, equip, and sustain the ANSF based on accurate troop strength numbers.”
As well as inflated troop numbers, attrition remains an ongoing concern with 40,000 personnel dropped from the rolls of the Afghan army and police from Sept. 2013 to Sept. 2014, according to the report.
It also says that only about 35 percent of Afghan security force members are functionally literate and it further cannot determine how many recruits that received literacy training are still members of the security forces.
The report adds that only 860 women are enlisted in the Afghan National Army, or less than half a percent of the overall total.
The precarious security situation is also taking its toll on the Afghan army with more than 1,300 personnel killed in action last year, and another 6,200 injured.
– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz