Troop Numbers 'Far Less' In Helmand Than Reported

Local authorities in southern Helmand province have reported that the number of security force members listed in the province is inaccurate and that there are far less troops on active duty than records indicate.

It is believed that of the 18,000 army personnel registered in Helmand, only 11,218 Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers are actually on active duty.

The total number of Afghan National Police (ANP) registered in the province is 8,000 but only 4,890 are active.

The Afghan Local Police (ALP) numbers a registered 2,420 but in fact there are only 1,200.

The rest are reportedly dead or have deserted their posts, say local officials.

The head of the provincial council Mohammad Karim Atal said: “The public order corps (part of the ANA) has four battalions and each one should have more than 350 members but currently 280 members of the entire formation are absent.”

A TOLOnews investigation during the recent clashes in Helmand shows that security forces also lack military equipment and struggle to cope without coordinated support which often leads to soldiers facing unnecessary challenges on the battle fields.

An ALP commander Mohammad Nabi in Marja district in Helmand said: “When we call for help, no help arrives and we continue fighting. When we run out of arms and ammunition we are compelled to either sacrifice our lives or retreat from our posts. This is when our posts fall to the Taliban.”

In addition the lack of good governance in parts of Helmand has resulted in insecurity in the province for many years.

However, the Ministry of Defense rejects these claims but the Interior Ministry confirms that 30 percent of the ALP and 10 percent of the ANP are not on active duty.

Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said: “Sometimes the numbers decrease because either they resign, go absent without leave or are killed or injured but we always fill these posts and there is no shortage in the ranks.”

Deputy spokesman of the Ministry of Interior Najib Danish said: “The number of ALP force members especially drop as they are sometimes assigned to other departments but some take leave and don’t return.”

Helmand has experienced years of war despite ongoing military action. In 2010 a massive military operation was carried out by U.S and Afghan troops in Marja district but after clearing the district insurgents returned.

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