ANDSF casualty and the leadership problem

Tuesday, 01 November 2016 04:02 Written by  Heart of asia Read 356 times

The escalation of fighting in the country has pushed the casualty rate of Afghan National Defense and Security Force (ANDSF) personnel to an alarming high level, besides civilians. According to a report published by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) -- a US government oversight agency, around 15,000 Afghan forces have suffered casualties including 5,523 fatalities, more than those of 2015, in the first eight months of 2016. The report also notes that the Afghan government lost 2.2 percent territorial control only in three months.

In its report, SIGAR has also highlighted the worrying and unnerving dimensions of the current situation of Afghanistan. The current record level ANDSF casualty figures threaten its future and sustainability, especially with its already thinned ranks, and current dropping re-enlistment rate. If estimated, nearly 4 percent of the entire ANDSF has suffered casualties over the past eight months. With its current unprecedented high casualty level, ANDSF regarded as the biggest achievement of the past decade and a half faces a survival test.
In addition to other contributing factors, poor leadership is a major reason for the increased number of deaths and injuries among Afghan forces. Even a while ago, the general commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan acknowledged that the main cause of the rise in ANDSF casualty was poor leadership, an issue which makes it impossible for Afghan forces to prevent casualties and fall of territories even with advanced weaponry at their disposal.

There has long been a lot of criticism of the leadership issue of Afghan forces; however, no practical corrective measures have been taken so far. Though President Ghani always uses the slogan that he will implement the reward and punishment system at least in the armed forces, his words have not been translated into actions yet. Alike other government posts, the leadership of security and defense institutions is also divided based on political considerations other than merit among leaders of the National Unity Government, hitting coordination and morale among Afghan forces rock bottom besides increasing death toll. Whenever the lower reaches of ANDSF observe the deals and differences between government leaders and military officials, they lose the willingness and morale to serve in ANDSF; therefore, they are either killed in the battlefield, or surrender to the Taliban. 
The National Unity Government leadership should learn a lesson from its failures, and reshuffle the leadership of Afghan forces. If they are unable to make merit-based appointments in the whole government due to conflicting interests, they should at least designate capable and patriotic individuals for the ANDSF leadership.

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