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Afghanistan's security forces lost 42,000 troops in the last year in a crackdown on 'ghost soldiers'
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - There has been a sharp drop in the size of Afghanistan's National Defense Security Forces in the past few months due to changes in the way troops are counted and an effort to reduce the number of so-called "ghost" soldiers, a U.S. government watchdog said on Thursday.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said in a report that ANDSF personnel size had gone down by nearly 10 percentage points in the most recent quarter compared to the previous trimester.
The number of ANDSF troops fell by nearly 42,000 compared to roughly the same period, between April and the end of June last year, the report said.
The disclosure comes as Washington attempts to clinch a framework peace agreement with Taliban insurgents that is expected to include a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops, which now number about 14,000 in Afghanistan.
Some 9,000 of those forces are involved with training, advising and assisting Afghan security forces. U.S. officials have long expressed concerns about the strength and capability of the Afghan forces, especially without adequate international support.
SIGAR, citing information from the U.S.-led coalition, said the decline in Afghan force levels owed to a move by the ANDSF to switch their reporting of personnel strength to the number of biometrically validated forces, rather than just the number reported on-hand by officials in the field.
"The change was part of an effort by the United States and its partners to reduce opportunities for corrupt ANDSF officials to report 'ghost' (nonexistent) soldiers and police on personnel rolls in order to pocket the salaries," the report said.
With a potential U.S. drawdown looming, recent Taliban attacks in Afghanistan have underscored pressure on Afghanistan's overstretched security forces.
Video footage of a purported "bombing of Kurd civilians" by Turkish military forces shown on ABC News appeared to be a nighttime firing of tracer rounds at a Kentucky gun range.
For U.S. service members who have fought alongside the Kurds, President Donald Trump's decision to approve repositioning U.S. forces in Syria ahead of Turkey's invasion is a naked betrayal of valued allies.
"I am ashamed for the first time in my career," one unnamed special operator told Fox News Jennifer Griffin.
In a Twitter thread that went viral, Griffin wrote the soldier told her the Kurds were continuing to support the United States by guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners even though Turkey had nullified an arrangement under which U.S. and Turkish troops were conducting joint patrols in northeastern Syria to allow the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, to withdraw.
"The Kurds are sticking by us," the soldier told Griffin. "No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us."
The U.S. military's seemingly never-ending mission supporting civil authorities along the southwestern border will last at least another year.
On Sept. 3, Defense Secretary Mark Esper approved a request from the Department of Homeland Security to provide a total of up to 5,500 troops along the border until Sept. 30, 2020, Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson, commander of U.S. Army North, said on Monday.
Editor's note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia announced on Monday it would hold a large test of its Strategic Missile Forces that will see it fire ballistic and cruise missiles from the land, sea and air this week.
The exercise, from Oct. 15-17, will involve around 12,000 military personnel, as well as aircraft, including strategic nuclear bombers, surface ships and submarines, Russia's Ministry of Defense said in a statement.