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SIGAR: Number of Afghan Defense Forces Continues to Decline

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(Last Updated On: January 31, 2019)

The strength of the embattled Afghan defense forces has declined to its lowest level in four years, a U.S. watchdog said on Thursday.

The latest quarterly report by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) noted that the control of Afghanistan’s territory and population “became somewhat more contested (and) Afghan government control or influence continued to decline”.

It put districts under government control or influence at 53.8 percent covering 63.5 percent of the population by October 2018, with the rest of the country controlled or contested by the Taliban.

The hardline Islamist group has been unable to seize a major Afghan city but has stepped up pressure in rural areas and is now more powerful than any at other time since they were toppled by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in late 2001.

SIGAR cited a U.S. Forces-Afghanistan report that the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces had decreased to 308,693 troops, or 87.7 per cent of its assigned strength, the lowest since the creation of NATO’s operation to train, advise and assist Afghans in January 2015.

The United States has some 14,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission and a separate counter-terrorism effort largely directed at groups such as al Qaeda and Islamic State.

Some 8,000 troops from 38 other countries also participate in Resolute Support.

The report did not detail the reasons for the decreasing numbers and the Afghan government does not publish casualty figures. However, security analysts say that re-enlistment and unauthorized absences remain major problems.

President Ashraf Ghani said in Switzerland last week 45,000 members of the Afghan security forces had been killed since he took office in 2014, a figure analysts said helped explain morale problems.

“That number indicates that in those roughly 53 months, around 849 Afghan security personnel have been killed per month on average,” SIGAR said.

SIGAR also released figures suggesting the recruitment and retention of women in the national defense and security forces was a significant challenge.

Citing information declassified by U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, SIGAR said Afghan forces had 4,735 female personnel – less than 2 percent of current assigned strength.

With Inputs from Reuters.

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Daesh claims responsibility for mosque attack in Kandahar

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(Last Updated On: October 16, 2021)

Islamic State (Daesh) claimed responsibility for a suicide bomber attack at a Shi’ite mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar which left dozens killed and injured, a statement posted by the group’s Amaq news agency said on Friday.

The statement added that two Daesh fighters shot the guards of the mosque dead, broke in and blew themselves up between two groups of worshippers, one of which consisted of around 300 people.

It was the second week in a row that Daesh militants bombed Friday prayers and killed dozens of worshippers.

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Muttaqi calls on international community to recognize IEA government

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(Last Updated On: October 15, 2021)

Afghanistan’s Foreign acting Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi accused the international community on Friday (October 15) of “violating the rights of Afghan people” by not recognizing the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) government.

Speaking to Reuters on the second day of a two-day visit to Turkey’s capital of Ankara, Muttaqi said he discussed the recognition of the IEA’s government with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu as well.

“The fact that all of them are recognized and the new Islamic government of Afghanistan is not recognized is an injustice and oppression of the Afghan people… Afghanistan wants positive relations with the world and the world must respond positively to this message,” he said.

Almost two months after the former Western-backed government collapsed and IEA forces swept into Kabul, the IEA administration has pushed to build relations with other countries to help stave off a catastrophic economic crisis.

But the IEA has so far refused to give ground on allowing girls to return to high school, one of the key demands of the international community after a decision last month that schools above the sixth grade would only reopen for boys.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday he had conveyed Turkey’s recommendations regarding the inclusion of women in the workforce and education of girls.
Meanwhile, Cavusoglu reiterated the importance of government inclusiveness for Afghanistan’s unity.

“We once again explained the importance of including people from all ethnic and religious groups, besides the Taliban (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan), in the administration. Especially in these difficult times, this is important in terms of establishing unity and solidarity within the country,” Cavusoglu said.

NATO member Turkey maintained its embassy in Kabul after Western countries withdrew following the fall of the U.S.-backed Afghan government and have urged those countries to increase engagement.

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Blast targets mosque in Kandahar

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(Last Updated On: October 15, 2021)

A large explosion ripped through a mosque in the southern Kandahar province on Friday afternoon.

The blast happened at the Shi’ite Fatimiya mosque during Friday prayers, causing heavy casualties.

Sources said at least 34 people were killed and 69 others wounded in the explosion. Afghan officials have not confirmed the casualties so far.

Qari Saeed Khosti, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, has told Reuters that authorities were collecting details of the explosion.

The blast took place days after a suicide bomb attack claimed by Islamic State on a Shi’ite mosque in the northern city of Kunduz that killed and wounded more than 200 people.

So far, no group or individual has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The blast, coming so soon after the Kunduz attack underlined the increasingly uncertain security in Afghanistan as the Islamic State has stepped up operations following the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan victory over the Western-backed government in Kabul in August.

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