Afghan security forces shrink 11%

WASHINGTON • The numbers of the Afghan security forces fell by nearly 11 per cent in the past year, the US government's top watchdog on Afghanistan said yesterday, an indication of the difficulty Kabul will have in dealing with its precarious security situation.

In its report, the Special Inspector-General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said the numbers in the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF), which include the army, air force and police, totalled an estimated 296,400 personnel as of January.

That was a drop of 10.6 per cent compared with the same month last year. The authorised strength of the ANDSF is 334,000 personnel.

A double suicide blast in Kabul killed 25 people, including Agence France-Presse photographer Shah Marai and at least eight other journalists, on Monday.

Reporters Without Borders called it the most lethal single attack on the media since the fall of the Taleban. Later on Monday, the BBC confirmed that one of its reporters, 29-year-old Ahmad Shah, was killed in a separate attack in eastern Khost province, near the border with Pakistan.

One American soldier was also killed, and another wounded, during a combat operation in eastern Afghanistan, US Forces-Afghanistan said in a statement.

In a further attack, 11 children were killed and 16 people wounded, including Romanian and Afghan security force members, when a suicide bomber exploded his car near a Nato convoy in the southern province of Kandahar, officials said.

The attacks, a week after 60 people were killed as they waited at a voter registration centre in the city, underlined mounting insecurity despite repeated government pledges to tighten defences.

Militants are targeting journalists in Afghanistan because they are weakened and want more news coverage in order to undermine the country's electoral process ahead of an expected vote in October, Pentagon chief James Mattis said on Monday.

"This is the normal stuff by people who cannot win at the ballot box, so they turn to bombs," he said when asked about the day of bloodshed.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meanwhile, condemned the "senseless and barbaric attack" on media personnel.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2018, with the headline 'Afghan security forces shrink 11%'. Print Edition | Subscribe