Afghanistan Sees 20 Percent Rise in Casualties of Security Forces, Police: Official

Image: Afghan special forces in Kunduz city
Afghan special forces arrive for a battle with the Taliban in Kunduz city, northern Afghanistan.STRINGER/AFGHANISTAN / Reuters

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By Courtney Kube and Erik Ortiz

It has been another bloody year on the battlefield for Afghan soldiers and police officers, who have experienced a surge in casualties over last year, according to the top U.S. general in the region.

The number of those killed so far this year is about 20 percent higher than during the same period last year, Gen. John Nicholson said Thursday without disclosing exact figures.

In all of 2015, there were 20,000 casualties among Afghan Security Forces, he added.

The Taliban militants opposing the government forces have fought steadily through 2016, including over the winter, officials said. The fledgling democracy has also been tormented by rival terror group ISIS.

This grim uptick in security deaths comes as a United Nations report released Monday found that over 1,600 Afghan civilians were killed in the first half of 2016, nearly 400 of them children. The number of those casualties is the highest since records were kept in 2009.

Faced with a Taliban resurgence, President Barack Obama announced earlier this month that he would slow the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, leaving about 8,400 service members there when he leaves office in January.

Initially, Obama planned to drop American troop levels from 9,800 to 5,500 by the end of 2016.

Nicholson, meanwhile, also acknowledged that five U.S. Special Operations troops were wounded in the eastern province of Nangarhar in the past few days. The Americans were partnered with Afghan Special Operations forces in southern Nangarhar during a counterterrorism mission.

Nicholson said the Americans were wounded by small arms fire and shrapnel during a clearing operation. Two of the wounded returned to duty, while three others were airlifted out of the country.

ISIS has built a presence in Nangarhar recently. The Afghan military, with the aid of U.S. troops, were reportedly planning to strike at their positions.