View Full Version : New Afghani offensive

08 Apr 13,, 13:42
Reported in the NYT and WaPo today, write-ups of two separate but similar units-- the Second Brigade of the 201st Corps and the Fourth Brigade conducting offensive operations fairly close to each other. i'll post each in turn.

very interesting reading. to caveat, these are the better units of the Afghan Army but it's good to see them able and very willing to fight even with their very troublesome logistics/medivac/etc issues.

on a lighter note, this ABP commander below has a pretty good sense of humor.



DAMDARA, Afghanistan — Through the crackle of the hand radio, the Taliban fighter could be heard screaming at his comrades, berating them to strike from their mountain hide-outs and kill the infidel forces gathered nearby.

A burly Afghan Border Police commander, eavesdropping on the enemy’s open-channel communication, chuckled and decided to stir things up. “If you are a man, you don’t need to yell,” the commander spoke into his radio, as a circle of Afghan Army soldiers giggled. “Why don’t you come out, you thief, and fight us face to face? What cave are you hiding in?”

Startled, the insurgent on the other end blurted: “I’m strong with the love of God! I’m going to heaven.”

“Donkeys don’t go to heaven, usually,” the commander replied, stroking his henna-dyed beard, eliciting another round of laughs.

As Afghans begin taking the lead from American forces this year, each mission the new Afghan National Army takes on will be a step toward answering critical questions about the country’s fate. Can Afghan forces effectively fight the Taliban after the Americans are gone? And can they gain the support of local leaders and populations who are so critical to that fight?

The challenges were highlighted over the weekend by a sprawling and drawn-out battle between Afghan forces and a Taliban stronghold, an indication that the fighting season had begun again in earnest. The battle ended only after nearby American forces called in an airstrike on the Taliban commander’s home, killing him and a number of civilians, including at least 10 children.

A recent week with a well-regarded Afghan Army unit in Kunar Province showed marked differences from the American way of war. While the unit generally acquitted itself well in combat, logistical and political challenges were evident. The operation in Kunar was characterized by Afghan and American military commanders as one of the biggest of its kind in the area: a search-and-clear mission centered on the village of Damdara in Ganjgal Valley, a notorious Taliban stronghold where an insurgent ambush killed nine Afghans and four of their American Marine advisers in 2009. This time, no Americans would be in sight at any stage.

Instead, the Second Brigade of the Afghan 201st Corps, considered one of the army’s best units, was leading the charge. Army commanders coordinated with multiple police and intelligence agencies, as well as Afghan civilian officials, spending nearly a week conducting reconnaissance and drawing up elaborate terrain models to prepare for the mission.

The terrain would play a major role this day. Ganjgal Valley is picturesque, but treacherous, with high ridges arrayed in a horseshoe around the village, perfect for shielding ambushes. Cut into the hills that lead up to the mountains are terraced fields, dry and brittle with small green shoots peeking through the soil. Stones cover the base of the valley like the bed of a river.

More than 350 Afghan security force members gathered around the perimeter, some given the task of searching the village for fighters and weapons, other assigned to the ridges to confront any ambushes at eye level.

They did not have to wait long. The forces in the heights came under fire almost immediately from an opposing ridgeline northwest of the village — the one vantage point the army did not control. Dozens of fighters were firing.

Soldiers responded with vehicle-mounted guns. A team shot artillery onto the insurgent mountainside with mixed accuracy, sending up plumes of smoke into the clear sky. The rhythm of a long-range battle took hold, the shots less frequent as each side squinted to find enemies on ridges about a half-mile apart.

It was during this impasse that the war of words erupted into the Taliban’s radio patter. As Afghan soldiers drew around to listen, the conversation between the two enemies grew even more insulting and acrimonious.

The insurgent called the commander “a slave of the infidels.”

“You didn’t even have pants on when I was a good Muslim and mujahid,” the commander replied. “You are a slave of the Punjabis,” he added, referencing Pakistani support for the Taliban. “Where did you get your ammunition, you donkey? Do you have a bullet factory up there?”

As the day wore on, a line of villagers snaked through the valley toward a meeting with assembled Afghan government officials.

The district governor, Mohammad Hanif Khairkhwa, apologized for bothering them and asked whether the Afghan forces had mistreated anyone. The villagers, resting on their haunches and wrapped in earth-tone shawls, said they had not

The government had tried before to draw support away from the Taliban here, with only modest success. Now, in making his case, Mr. Khairkhwa drew on their similarities, speaking Afghan to Afghan while turning the absence of American forces into a new chance for cooperation.

“We are from the same country, the same region, we speak the same language and share the same faith,” he said. “Do you see any foreigners here? It’s just us.”

Promising that Afghan forces would be visiting the valley again, the governor left them with a warning: “Tell the insurgents, ‘Don’t shoot from my house.’ Tell them, ‘Don’t lay mines near my house.’ If you do not, then next time, you cannot complain about what happens.”

The villagers trekked back to the village, a series of mud homes seemingly carved into the earth.

An old man with deep blue eyes and a wispy white beard began muttering under his breath as he hobbled off. “If the government people bother us, they will be held accountable by God,” he said.

Overhearing the comment, one intelligence official shouted back: “You think we are bothering you? Who do you think is shooting at us every day? If you shoot one of us, God will send you to hell.”

Farther down the valley, a row of Humvees near the front of the fight belted streams of bullets into the enemy-held mountainside. A Taliban sniper hiding in the dense forest above fired single shots back at the troops on the valley’s floor. The village remained dormant.

“They shoot at us like thieves, so we have to shoot back with force,” said Sgt. Hedyatullah Tanha, 22, a platoon commander. “If we don’t return fire they will have a long period of time to line up another shot.”

Capt. Wahidullah Atifi, a company commander, said constant fighting had sharpened his men, while armored vehicles and extra training had bolstered their confidence.

“The only bad habit my unit has is that they respond to a single shot with a volley of bullets,” he said.

Amid the clamor of gunshots, Captain Atifi’s cellphone rang. A senior commander urged him to keep his men from shooting so much.

Captain Atifi shrugged and then sounded a note growing more common among Afghan commanders as they ponder future battles without American air support: “If we had an attack helicopter,” he said, “the fight would be over.”

In reality, if things had gone smoothly, the fight may never have happened in the first place. The army battalion commander had squashed earlier plans for a special unit to take the ridge that later became the Taliban stronghold.

Communication proved to be an obstacle, too. The patchwork of Afghan forces, including border, national and local police, were using different radios, inhibiting communication. To compensate, everyone used cellphones.

By 1:30 p.m., the search of the village concluded, turning up a handful of .50-caliber shells plucked from the floor of an old man’s home.

Soldiers began to trail down from the village. As planned, those along the ridgeline began to collapse their positions and make their way down the mountain, covering one another’s exits. After hours of sporadic fighting, all were alive and accounted for, officers said.

Then, a stutter of gunfire erupted as the Taliban exploited their vulnerability.

Soon after the soldiers abandoned high ground, insurgents slipped into the vacated positions and began firing down at a pocket of soldiers, now pinned by two lines of fire.

A dozen men piled into four Humvees and raced down the rugged dirt path to the base of the mountain, hoping to ease the enemy assault long enough to break the soldiers free. The frequency of the gunfire intensified, echoing across the valley in tidy snaps.

Twenty minutes later, the convoy reappeared, bringing with it the trapped soldiers, all alive. Taliban bullets whizzed through nearby fields, kicking up small clouds of dust.

As the men began loading into their vehicles to leave, the dormant village awakened. Muzzle flashes began to light up the dark mud windows, winging shots at the departing convoy until it was clear of the valley and on the road back to base.

08 Apr 13,, 13:48
Afghan soldiers enter a Taliban nest — without U.S. troops by their side - The Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/war-zones/afghan-soldiers-enter-a-taliban-nest--without-us-troops-by-their-side/2013/04/07/8feea0ae-9f95-11e2-9c03-6952ff305f35_story.html)

Afghan soldiers enter a Taliban nest — without U.S. troops by their side

In TANGI VALLEY, AFGHANISTAN — When the first Afghan soldiers arrived at the mouth of the Tangi Valley last week, they saw a Taliban flag waving over a towering bluff. They had entered a sliver of their own country that did not belong to them, beginning one of the most daunting missions in the short history of the Afghan army.

They climbed to the rocky peak and plucked the enemy’s flag from the ground. That’s when the first makeshift bomb exploded, a booby trap that blew the men off their feet and threw a plume of dust and smoke and fire into the air.

t was an early confirmation of what Afghan and U.S. troops already knew: The Tangi is not just another insurgent haven. According to many intelligence estimates, it is the most dangerous vein in the country’s eastern hinterlands, home to Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters. It is the site of the deadliest attack endured by the U.S. military in Afghanistan and one of the biggest staging grounds for assaults on Kabul, just 60 miles away.

But what was the Afghan army doing there? Its last base in the Tangi had been abandoned and overrun by insurgents. The American military had given up on securing the valley two years earlier. Neither American nor Afghan military leaders thought Afghan security forces had the capacity to set up permanent positions there, deeming the Taliban’s sanctuary all but unshakable, regardless of the operation’s outcome.

In over a decade of war, the United States failed to destroy a patchwork of Taliban havens, leaving an untested Afghan army to either let those sanctuaries fester or make bold — but perhaps inconsequential — efforts to disturb them. As the Afghan military attempts to prove its own strength without American combat support, the Tangi appeared to be the perfect mission — a chance to do what the U.S. military could not.

For the 1,027 Afghan soldiers who entered the Tangi in early April, the threats would be unrelenting. By the time they left after four long days, more than 40 makeshift bombs had detonated. The valley was peppered with Taliban madrassas, they would learn, and homes from which fighters emerged firing machine guns and rockets. Clinics once funded by Western aid agencies had been emblazoned with Taliban slogans. Former U.S. bases had been rigged with land mines.

“Terrorists own the Tangi,” said Col. Sami Badakshani, the executive officer of the Afghan army’s 4th Brigade. “The American military left. The Afghan government left. Because of that negligence, it is like this.”

American troops were surprised to learn of the Afghan army’s plans just one day before the operation was due to start. They rushed to get air support and surveillance drones into the area, sending about a dozen advisers to an outpost overlooking the valley. But no U.S. soldiers would enter the Tangi. (A Washington Post reporter and photographer were the only Americans there.) The days of large-scale joint combat operations are over in Afghanistan, particularly in places where the U.S. military questions the long-term value of dangerous missions.

This time, the Afghan army, fledgling but ambitious, would be on its own — the first non-Taliban combatants to enter the valley in over two years.

Afghan troops take on Taliban without U.S. forces by their side: The country’s fledgling army begins to take over security operations from the Americans in Logar and Wardak provinces.

The soldiers regrouped after the first explosion, which left them with only minor injuries. They were chastised by one of their battalion commanders. The men should have known better, said Col. Mohammed Daowood. The Taliban often attach makeshift bombs to flags, in case the enemy should attempt to remove them.

“These guys — what are they doing?” Daowood said. “We cannot lose this battle before it starts.”

The troops continued pouring into the narrow valley, with some walking along the ridgeline and others taking the main road — a key throughway between Wardak and Logar provinces, paved by Americans but untraversed because of the Taliban’s dominance. In 2009, the U.S. military dubbed it “IED alley.” In 2011, the Taliban shot down an American Chinook in the Tangi, killing 38 people, including 22 Navy SEALs, in the deadliest attack of the war.

Immediately, the first units began digging for explosive devices. The troops had none of the U.S. military’s sophisticated equipment. Their jammers, which disable remote-controlled bombs, were mostly broken. The men used their eyes and pickaxes and shovels, uncovering massive homemade mines every 15 feet and lifting them from the ground with bare hands.

One by one, they carried the mines away from the road and buried them in the ground before detonating them, shattering the windows of Tangi homes. Any of the explosive devices would have torn through the soft-skin Ford Rangers with which the Afghan army is outfitted.

The first minutes of the mission were cluttered with such markers of an invisible enemy — first the roadside bombs and then sniper fire that echoed across the valley. The Tangi is narrow enough to act as a rocky amphitheater, and the sounds of the clash thundered between mountains until it was unclear where the bullets were coming from.

By the time the first lobby of gunfire stopped, two soldiers were shot, one in the neck and one in the leg. Just before he passed out, the man shot in the neck screamed, “I am not scared of the Taliban!”

But the commanders disagreed about whether the soldiers were in fact shot by insurgents. Daowood said it was friendly fire — the product of disorganization and soldiers that, from a distance, mistook their allies for enemies. Another battalion commander screamed that it was a Taliban sniper firing from a perch above them.

While the two argued, more gunfire rang out. A bomb exploded. The issue still unresolved, the commanders continued further into the valley, their men scattering toward villages that almost certainly harbored more enemy fighters. They had not heard about the information contained in an American intelligence report delivered the previous night: 200 insurgents had snuck into the village, ostensibly to defend their sanctuary.

Disparities between Afghan and U.S. military doctrine could be seen everywhere. Daowood walked next to a man with a ski mask and oversize sunglasses covering his face. The man said he was a former Talib from the Tangi who accepted money from Daowood to work as an informant. No one in the unit had ever seen him before. Some worried he was a double agent.

He pointed to makeshift bombs that no one else saw, with wires that snaked toward distant trees so insurgents could trigger the devices without being seen.

When asked how he found them, he pulled down his bandanna and smiled. “I’m a professional,” he said.

Afghan troops take on Taliban without U.S. forces by their side: The country’s fledgling army begins to take over security operations from the Americans in Logar and Wardak provinces.

Other commanders had their own spies who led them around the detritus of aid efforts usurped by the Taliban: bridges built with U.S. funds, a clinic funded by the Swedish Committee, a mosque built by the government of Kuwait.

For the soldiers, it was like discovering a lost world in which the Taliban’s shadow government finally took physical shape. In between firefights, they took photos of each other standing in front of Taliban buildings, straddling motorcycles that belonged to suspected insurgent commanders.

The tempo picked up quickly as they continued into the valley. The soldiers burst through doors and into small markets where men sat quietly and waited to be questioned.

“What are you doing here?” Sgt. Falak Naaz said. “What does your father do? Do you know where the Taliban commanders are?”

Almost all of the men shrugged. They were farmers, they said, or shopkeepers. They did not know any Talibs. Meanwhile, the Taliban’s alternate title, “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” was scrawled over everything. A Taliban madrassa included piles of paperwork from the insurgency’s own education department, including a mandate that students keep their beards long.

The Afghan commanders knew they were being lied to.

“When they see us, they put down their guns and pick up shovels and tell us they are farmers,” Daowood said. “Then they pick up their guns again.”

When the battalion entered the village of Hassankhel, gunfire came from all directions. On the ridgeline, there was no Afghan army presence to support the soldiers fighting in the village.

“Where’s our cover? These soldiers are lazy and scared. Where is their commander!?” Daowood screamed.

When the firefight ended, two soldiers carried a lieutenant, Mustafa, from one of the mud-brick village homes. He was shot in the stomach and bleeding badly. His platoon commander, Capt. Rahim Sadeq, looked around frantically. The Afghan army’s medevac capacity is notoriously underdeveloped. Out of desperation, the platoon commander asked a Post reporter to call for an American helicopter. (He had no such ability.)

Instead, the soldiers stole a wheelbarrow from a local farmer and lifted Lt. Mustafa into it. They raced out of the valley. What happened next confused American and Afghan troops involved in the Tangi operation. U.S. forces agreed to loan the Afghans a helicopter for the medevac, but after 40 minutes of waiting, as Mustafa bled, the Afghan Defense Ministry denied the request.

“It was baffling,” said one U.S. adviser.

Mustafa, who like many Afghans uses only one name, made it to a Kabul hospital by road. He is recovering. But the frustration of being abandoned without air medevac has taken its toll on the Afghan army. Last month, a soldier in Wardak waited 24 hours for an air medevac. He bled to death.

“We had to watch a man die for no reason,” said Gen. Abdul Raziq, the 4th Brigade commander.

As Mustafa was wheeled away, the soldiers gathered about 20 suspected insurgents. The soldiers punched them on the back and slapped them in the face. The two main suspects were blindfolded and handcuffed using pieces of a scarf.

“You are tools of Pakistan!” one soldier screamed.

“You are worthless Talibs,” said another.

The men stood for 20 minutes waiting for their punishment.

Daowood launched into an impassioned speech. For a long time, it remained unclear whether the men would be beaten, released or detained.

“There are no Americans here, just Muslims. Why did you shoot our Muslim soldier?” he asked.

There was no response. Then Daowood abruptly shooed all the men away, including the two who had been in the same house as Mustafa’s shooter, who apparently fled.

Another battalion took a different approach with a suspect they apprehended during a firefight, parading the slow-talking, shifty-eyed man named Wazir around the Tangi in handcuffs. Then they drove him to the operation headquarters outside the valley, where American advisers and Afghan officers gawked at him.

A few U.S. soldiers snapped photos of the man, with his bloodstained shirt, and were immediately reprimanded. It was the closest they would get to the battle.

“You are violating coalition policy!” screamed Lt. Col. John Allen. “Turn in your cameras.”

The Americans, heads down, handed over their digital cameras. The Afghans continued tugging at the detainee’s beard and asking him questions he did not understand or pretended not to hear.

By the third day, insurgent opposition had mostly faded. Soldiers were still uprooting makeshift bombs, but none had detonated under their vehicles. All of the wounded looked as if they would survive. The mood grew increasingly buoyant.

Daowood’s battalion surged further into the valley in their pickups, racing over a road that had not yet been checked for mines. Soldiers charged into a house they said belonged to a Taliban commander and made themselves tea. They lay their findings on the grass: rocket-propelled grenades, rifles and several Afghan army uniforms that could be used for sneaking into the enemy’s ranks.

For the first time in more than two years, they saw their old outpost that had been overrun. The Taliban had shot a video of dozens of fighters entering the base on motorcycles, waving Kalashnikovs in the air. On this day, though, the streets were quiet. Just one old man shuffled toward the troops and berated them as they made their way toward the outpost.

“You invited everyone here — the Americans, the Europeans,” he said. “It’s a betrayal.”

The Afghan troops responded as they did all week. The Americans are gone. Blaming foreign intruders no longer made sense.

“This is an Afghan mission,” Sadeq said.

The soldiers walked into an old USAID-funded clinic, where, amid the celebration, one local man whispered his thoughts about the futility of the Afghan National Army operation.

“It doesn’t matter if the Taliban or the ANA is here. They are both good with us,” he said, before pausing. “The Taliban will be back.”

Afghan soldiers knew that to be true, too.

During the peak of the U.S. military surge here, American commanders pushed into Taliban strongholds and stayed there. But the Afghans do not have the money or manpower to set up a string of new outposts in the Tangi. In Wardak, the lack of U.S. support is a function not just of the American drawdown but also of President Hamid Karzai’s demand this year that U.S. Special Forces troops leave the province after locals accused them of torture.

Before packing their bags, the Afghan soldiers watched many of the men who they had briefly detained strolling around the villages of Tangi.

“They’re all Talibs,” said Naaz, the sergeant, scowling at the men.

“They know we will leave,” said Badakshani, the executive officer.

After the sunset Thursday, the Afghan soldiers poured out of the valley. Some of the soldiers carried souvenirs from their trip into the Tangi. One man stole a bandage from a confiscated Taliban medical kit and used it to wrap a bleeding finger. The American advisers left the small shipping container from which they had been tracking their advisees’ progress.

Twelve hours later, according to locals in the Tangi, the Taliban reemerged.

About 200 to 300 insurgents returned from nearby villages, they said. Some merely stepped out of the homes in which they had been hiding. Many of them carried Kalashnikovs in public view. Taliban officials denied that the Afghan operation had changed anything, saying the valley would remain under their power forever.

“The Afghan and American soldiers were not able to establish their control in the past 12 years in any part of the valley,” said Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf. “Their presence on the road was temporary. . . . They cannot keep their forces there for long.”

Mohammed Sharif contributed to this report.

13 Apr 13,, 00:01
Taliban Attack Highly Regarded Afghan Army Unit (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/13/world/asia/taliban-attacks-afghan-army-unit.html?ref=afghanistan)
Published: April 12, 2013

KABUL, Afghanistan – Taliban insurgents dealt a serious blow to one of the Afghan Army’s most highly regarded units on Friday, killing 13 soldiers and overrunning their remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan.

According to Afghan security officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of the Taliban victory, the 13 soldiers constituted the entire complement at the checkpost. One police official said that a force of 200 Taliban fighters had opened fire with heavy weapons and finally set the post on fire; most of the deaths were from the flames.

It was one of a series of bloody insurgent attacks in the current spring offensive that have helped drive the rate of government fatalities to the highest level of the war. Afghan soldiers and policemen are dying at more than double the rate of a year ago, according to military officials.

The numbers both underscore how much more of the fighting has been handed over to Afghan forces and raise questions about how ready those forces are for the increased responsibility, even as the insurgents ratchet up their much-anticipated spring onslaught.

This year has seen a number of high-profile insurgent attacks on the ground, not just the remote-control and suicide bombings the Taliban favored in the past. The shift suggests that they are testing how well Afghan forces can operate on their own at a critical juncture in the planned withdrawal of the American military.

The NATO transfer to Afghan control is scheduled to finish in the next few months, with Afghan forces taking over security in 100 percent of the country, and NATO and American military forces moving to a support and training role as their numbers diminish.

“We know the enemy’s going to come out hard this summer so the numbers are going to go up,” said Col. Thomas Collins, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force.

Friday’s attack was on the Third Battalion of the Second Brigade, one of only a handful of Afghan Army battalions rated by the United States military as independent and able to operate on its own without foreign advisers. It was one of two such battalions that had been deployed without advisers recently in Kunar Province, according to a military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the subject.

The Third Battalion was assigned to hold Narai district, a rugged, mountainous area near the Pakistani border, on a route used by insurgents.

A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid, took credit for the attack and claimed that 15 soldiers had been killed and that the insurgents had captured all of their weapons and ammunition.

It was a measure of the delicacy of the episode that officials publicly played down the death count, with a spokesman for the 201st Corps confirming only than an attack had taken place, and the Kunar Province police chief, Gen. Habib Saidkhelli, claiming that only two soldiers had been killed.

The Narai district police chief, Mohammad Yousuf, confirmed that 13 soldiers had been killed.

The Third Battalion has been widely praised as among the best of the Afghan Army’s formations.

The soldiers at the checkpost were taken by surprise because the Afghan and American militaries were concentrating on a joint operation elsewhere in Kunar, said a military official in the area.

The Second Brigade commander, Col. Hayatullah Aqtash, flew up in his personal helicopter with supplies on Friday morning to begin rebuilding the outpost, the official said.

Colonel Aqtash, reached by telephone, was dismissive of the attack. “It is a routine incident,” he said. “Every day we face such attacks.”

While it is still early in the spring fighting season to generalize, the insurgents have initiated several attacks recently using foot soldiers or made what the military calls “complex attacks,” involving bombings as well as firefights. Last year, the insurgents relied largely on suicide bombers and roadside bombings and avoided engaging directly with Afghan or international military forces.

In March, ground attacks by the insurgents killed four police officers and four Afghan soldiers in the Dangaam district of Kunar Province. Officials there said Friday’s attack was the deadliest in at least six months.

In northern Badakhshan Province, an area with little previous insurgent activity, Taliban forces ambushed a convoy and killed 17 Afghan soldiers sent to reinforce police posts on March 7. Most were killed after being captured, according to Afghan officials.

Then on March 25, 10 more Afghan soldiers were captured in the same area; they are still being held.

On April 3, one of the deadliest insurgent attacks of the war was set off in western Farah Province by nine Taliban fighters dressed as Afghan soldiers. They stormed a government compound, killing 10 soldiers and 34 civilians, and wounding more than 100 people.

Colonel Collins said that the increased death toll among Afghan forces was “tragic,” but that it had not so far had any long-term impact. “It doesn’t seem to be impairing their recruiting any,” he said.

The Afghan National Army has to replace and train nearly a third of its force every year because of desertions and attrition.

The death toll among Afghan forces has been steadily climbing in recent years as their numbers have grown and they have taken over more of the fighting. The army lost more than 1,000 soldiers in 2012, and the police lost 1,800 officers, according to Afghan government estimates. The army has 146,000 soldiers, with police and other units bringing total security forces to 352,000 last year.

Late last year, Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, the spokesman for the Afghan military, said at a news conference at NATO headquarters that 110 soldiers and 200 policemen were dying each month.

Asked about those numbers on Friday, however, he repudiated them but said he did not have correct figures immediately available.

Nonetheless, NATO officials have said those numbers are generally accurate.

By comparison, 25 NATO soldiers, most of them Americans, were killed in the first three months of 2013, according to figures compiled by icasualties.org, an independent monitoring group. A third of them died in aircraft accidents, not hostile attacks.

Jawad Sukhanyar contributed reporting from Kabul, and an Afghan employee of The New York Times from Kunar Province.

13 Apr 13,, 15:39
The Afghan National Army has to replace and train nearly a third of its force every year because of desertions and attrition.

Wow that's 50k if you assume the total strength at 150k. So every year the afghans have to find 50k recruits and train them like interns(on-job training) else capacity cannot be fulfilled.