Milley may have undercounted number of Afghan forces who died in war with Taliban

·3 min read

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff appeared to undercount the number of U.S.-allied Afghan police and military forces who died in the war with the Taliban, putting the number at 60,000 dead — contradicting America's Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, who assessed that “at least” 66,000 Afghan troops were killed.

The number, while it might not seem is especially far off, follows a pattern from Gen. Mark Milley, who previously inflated the size of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

In his latest remarks delivered Wednesday about the end of the U.S. military’s role in the war in Afghanistan, Milley said: “800,000 of us in uniform served in Afghanistan over the last 20 years. Our nation spent over a trillion dollars. And most importantly, 2,461 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines gave the last full measure of their devotion, while 20,691 were wounded, and untold thousands of others suffer with the invisible wounds of war as we close this chapter in this nation’s history.

“And all of those casualties are alongside our allies and partners, and we should never forget that 60,000 Afghan national security forces gave their lives in the conduct of this war.”

But the watchdog report on Afghanistan, released in August after the fall of Kabul, read: “At least 66,000 Afghan troops have been killed. More than 48,000 Afghan civilians have been killed, and at least 75,000 have been injured since 2001 — both likely significant underestimations.”

The Cost of War Project at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University has estimated since April that “66,000 to 69,000” Afghan national military and police died during the war in Afghanistan.

Figuring out the exact death toll number is difficult, however, as the now-collapsed Afghan government largely kept its military death figures secret.


President Joe Biden and Milley misled about the size of the Afghan army in the months leading up to the fall of Kabul, citing numbers that did not take into account things such as casualties, capture, and capitulation amid a massive Taliban offensive this year.

Biden said earlier this month: “We trained and equipped an Afghan military force of some 300,000 strong, incredibly well-equipped, a force larger in size than the militaries of many of our NATO allies.”

But it is not true that the Afghan military stood at 300,000 strong.

SIGAR released a report on July 31 and said that, as of the end of April, 300,699 Afghan National Defense and Security Forces personnel were enrolled in the Afghan Personnel and Pay System, but only 182,071 of them were Afghan National Army members, including those in the Afghan Air Force, while 118,628 were actually part of the Afghan National Police, which reports to the Interior Ministry instead of the Defense Ministry.

Moreover, the watchdog emphasized, “ANDSF personnel strength reported for this quarter does not reflect the loss of personnel to casualties, surrender, capture, or fleeing to other countries that occurred during the Taliban offensive from May through July.”

Milley got the size of the ANDSF wrong during Senate testimony on June 17, saying that “right now, the government of Afghanistan is holding and they have approximately about 325,000-to-350,000-person security force — army and police force.”

A 2021 report on The Military Balance by the International Institute of Strategic Studies contended that Afghanistan had only 171,500 members in the army and 7,300 in the air force, according to the Washington Post, and that Afghanistan had 99,000 “paramilitary” forces — its national police.


SIGAR’s “lessons learned” report in August also noted that “corrupt officials” in Afghanistan were able to “artificially increase their payroll numbers, leading to ‘ghost soldiers’ — nonexistent personnel created to draw a salary.”

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Tags: News, Foreign Policy, Mark Milley, Afghanistan, Taliban, National Security

Original Author: Jerry Dunleavy

Original Location: Milley may have undercounted number of Afghan forces who died in war with Taliban

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