War Deaths Top 13,000 in Afghan Security Forces

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Afghan Security Forces, Casualties, Afghanistan,KABUL, Afghanistan — More than 13,000 Afghan soldiers and police officers have been killed during the war here, far more than previously known, according to Afghan government statistics.

Most of those losses occurred during the past three years as Afghan forces took over a growing share of the responsibility for security in the country, culminating in full Afghan authority last spring.

The numbers also reflect an increased tempo to the conflict. More clashes have taken place as insurgents test the government forces, without as much fear of intervention from the American-led coalition as it prepares to withdraw.

A statement released late Sunday by President Hamid Karzai’s cabinet, the Council of Ministers, put the total number of people in the Afghan security forces killed in the past 13 years at 13,729, with an additional 16,511 Afghan soldiers and police officers wounded.

A spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, Gen. Dawlat Waziri, responding to the cabinet report, confirmed on Monday that 4,551 Afghan soldiers had been killed through March 20, 2013. But he said the ministry did not have figures for the current Afghan year, which ends March 20, 2014.

The cabinet figures included most of this year as well, according to a cabinet official, but did not distinguish between soldiers and police officers.

While there was as yet no complete breakdown year by year, there is little doubt that most of the increase in Afghan casualties occurred during the past three years.

Before 2010, both police and military casualties were relatively few, reflecting the small size of the Afghan security forces, and the higher proportion of the fighting carried out by NATO and American troops. For instance, in 2009, roughly twice as many coalition soldiers were killed as Afghan soldiers, based on data compiled by the Brookings Institution andicasualties.org, a website that collects data on war casualties.

According to the compilations by Brookings, only 1,236 Afghan soldiers and 3,290 Afghan police officers were killed from 2007 to 2010. That would mean, based on the cabinet’s latest numbers, that from 2011 to the present, more than 8,000 soldiers and police officers have been killed in the conflict.

According to the figures provided by General Waziri, of the 4,451 Afghan soldiers killed in the war, 2,771, or over 60 percent of the total, were killed in the three years that ended March 20, 2013.

Last September, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., said in an interview with The Guardianthat more than 100 Afghan security force members a week were then being killed. “I’m not assuming that those casualties are sustainable,” he told the newspaper.

At the time, Afghan officials disputed the general’s statistics, saying they must have included those wounded as well as killed. As recently as last month, after 21 Afghan soldiers were killed in a single Taliban attack, the spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, Gen. Zaher Azimi, refused to comment on reports of a rising death toll. “We have decided we will not share the number of casualties with the media,” he said.

The Afghan death toll is four times higher than that of the international coalition, which has lost 3,425 soldiers — 2,313 of them Americans — during the 13-year conflict.

The statement from the Council of Ministers also detailed payments of 1.3 billion afghanis, or about $23 million, in death benefits to soldiers’ families. It also said that 12,336 civilians had been killed in the conflict, and that 11,607 civilians had been wounded; those figures are in line with data compiled by the United Nations. The Afghan government, the statement said, had also paid 1.7 billion afghanis in death benefits to the families of civilian victims.

It was unclear why the cabinet had released the data now, but Mr. Karzai has been concerned by the strong public reaction to the deaths of the 21 Afghan soldiers last month, in what Afghan officials called the single deadliest attack on the army during the conflict. The data may have been intended to show how much the government had spent compensating victims of the conflict.

“The killing of our 21 A.N.A. heroes was on the top of the agenda of cabinet and National Security Council meetings chaired by the president,” Mr. Karzai’s spokesman, Aimal Faizi, said, referring to the Afghan National Army. “He remained behind the scenes in order to not politicize the issue but was deeply saddened. The president since then has been focused on the bigger picture of the incident. How and why it happened.”

Correction: March 3, 2014 
An earlier version of this article misstated the month that Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the commander of the International Security Assistance Force, gave an interview to the newspaper The Guardian. It was September, not August. The article also misquoted part of that interview. He said,
“I’m not assuming that those casualties are sustainable,” not, “I’m not assuming those figures are sustainable.”

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