August 6, 2015 / 6:13 PM / 4 years ago

Afghan forces lose 4,000 a month to casualties, desertion - U.S. general

An Afghan National Army soldier (ANA) inspects passengers at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Jalalabad province June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Parwiz/Files

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan army and security units have been losing around 4,000 soldiers and police a month to battlefield casualties and desertions, the U.S. general in command of international forces in the country said.

In a debate at the Brookings Institution in Washington this week, General John Campbell said that the bulk of the attrition was caused by desertion and could be addressed by improving conditions for service members.

“They lose probably in the neighbourhood of 4,000 per month,” Campbell said.

“The biggest case is folks that go AWOL, absent without leave and it really goes back down to leadership,” he said.

“It’s because you’ve got young soldiers or police that have been fighting in Helmand for two or three years. They haven’t had a break. They’re maybe not getting the right food they deserve, they haven’t had an opportunity to train.”

Afghan army and police forces, estimated to number between 300,000 and 350,000, have taken over almost all of the combat operations against insurgent forces since the end of NATO military operations at the end of last year.

They have suffered heavy losses in fighting this year but precise casualty figures have been elusive.

However Campbell denied that the heavy pace of losses was unsustainable and he said the problem could be addressed by better leadership and recruiting policies.

“Any that they lose by battlefield losses, any that they lose by going AWOL is not good but I think they’ll overcome this based on recruiting and retention,” he said.

Reporting by James Mackenzie; editing by Ralph Boulton

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