Afghan police deaths double as foreign troops withdraw

KABUL Mon Sep 2, 2013 3:08pm EDT

Afghan border police keep watch after a Taliban attack at Torkham district in Jalalabad province September 2, 2013. REUTERS/ Stringer

Afghan border police keep watch after a Taliban attack at Torkham district in Jalalabad province September 2, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/ Stringer

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KABUL (Reuters) - Police deaths in Afghanistan have doubled this year after withdrawing NATO forces handed security of the war-ravaged country to poorly equipped local troops with less frontline experience fighting Taliban insurgents.

Almost twelve years after coalition forces invaded Afghanistan, swathes of territory are firmly under Taliban control and Afghan troops are still heavily reliant on foreign air support, particularly in remote areas.

Their lighter vehicles make them particularly vulnerable to roadside bombs.

The Afghan government, anxious not to damage morale, has been reluctant to publish regular casualty numbers. It no longer publishes death tolls for the army.

However, in a speech on Monday the new Interior Minister Umer Daudzai revealed that 1,792 police have been killed since March, most of them by roadside bombs. The same number died in the preceding 12 months.

It is one of the highest police death rates in the world and raises further questions over how the government will be able to keep the Taliban at bay once foreign troops have withdrawn fully from Afghanistan at the end of 2014.

"In the last six months of this (Islamic calendar) year 1,792 Afghan policemen have lost their lives and over 2,700 were wounded," said Daudzai.

One of his concerns as minister was caring for the families of police who had lost their lives, he said.

NATO plans to keep a slimmed-down training and advisory mission in Afghanistan after 2014, although the United States and other NATO allies have been slow to provide detailed numbers of troops for the force.

The United States has been putting pressure on Afghanistan to finalize a bilateral security agreement (BSA), which will mandate how many, and where, U.S. soldiers will remain once the NATO mission ends.

(Reporting by Hamid Shalizi; writing by Jessica Donati; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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