Afghan troops quitting as Americans exit

With the U.S. drawdown from Afghanistan underway, Afghans are leaving their security forces faster than Americans and NATO allies can recruit them.

International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) officials confirmed on Wednesday that Afghan recruiting has slowed since last year, citing an unexpected level of attrition, or troops exiting the ranks, in the Afghan army.

The U.S. government's lead watchdog over wartime spending, John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR), sounded an alarm in his latest quarterly report to Congress, released on Tuesday. Spoko said that ANSF troop totals had fallen by 4,000 last year and were 20,000 short of the end-strength goal of 352,000 personnel.

U.S. officials long have stated that a key factor governing the yet-to-be-determined speed and size of the American troop withdraw is the ability to stand up in their stead the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), which includes military and police personnel. 

"Lower recruitment, coupled with several months of higher than average levels of attrition in the ANA [Afghan National Army], resulted a net decrease," ISAF said, in a statement provided to the E-Ring through Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Bill Speaks.

As of March 2013, the ANSF stood at 336,365 personnel. ISAF said as the total ANSF nears its 352,000 end-strength target, "fluctuation" was expected and "recruitment targets were lowered to slow growth."

"While the coalition and the Afghan government have placed a ceiling of 352,000 on the total strength of the ANSF," ISAF argued, "the focus of the training mission is now on the quality of the force; developing the right balance of seniority, skills, and specialization that are vital to their long term sustainability and success."

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