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Casualties sharply higher for Afghan troops, police

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By McClatchy Newspapers
Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, 9:57 p.m.

WASHINGTON — As the United States withdraws combat forces from Afghanistan, Afghan police and army units are suffering a sharply higher casualty rate and, in some cases, have negotiated local nonaggression pacts with insurgents to avoid coming under attack, according to a Pentagon report.

Afghan army and police casualties have soared by 79 percent this year, while casualties from the international coalition have fallen by 59 percent, according to the congressionally mandated report, which covers developments in Afghanistan from April to September.

The casualty shift has emerged as Afghan troops have taken the lead in combat operations. U.S. forces, other than special operations units, in most cases no longer join combat missions as the clock ticks down toward a full pullout by the end of next year. About 39,000 U.S. troops are in the country.

The Pentagon report paints a mixed picture of Afghan security after 12 years of war. It warns that the Afghan police and armed forces could be overwhelmed by Islamist insurgents unless Washington and its allies provide financial support and training when their troops leave.

Afghan forces “will be at high risk” without foreign aid and military assistance, including advisers, the report concludes. With such assistance, it adds, they “will remain on a path towards an enduring ability to overmatch the Taliban.”

The White House has been trying since last year to negotiate an agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai for some troops to remain after 2014.

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