In a positive development for the country's rapidly expanding security capability, the Afghan National Army announced today at the ministry of defense that it reached the benchmark strength of 134,000 soldiers two months ahead of schedule.
The announcement, made by Maj. Gen. Zahir Azimi in a press conference held jointly with the International Security Assistance Force, signified that progress in recruiting and retention is outpacing attrition in recent months, and congratulations on the achievement were immediately extended by ISAF spokesman Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz.
Emblematic of the growing capability of the army were the other topics of discussion, which included flood relief in the eastern provinces, special forces operations against insurgent networks, and planned security for next months' parliamentary elections.
Asked if the assistance provided recently to Pakistan to aid in their flood relief efforts meant that victims in Logar and Paktya provinces suffered more, Azimi replied that helping a neighbor did not preclude saving Afghan lives. He pointed out that 2,186 Afghan lives were saved by the military in operations conducted by both aviation and ground forces.
Azimi also responded to questions on whether rising casualties indicate poor coordination between the ANA and ISAF, inviting reporters to see for themselves the coordination center. He emphasized that this is an Afghan fight, and that consequently, Afghan soldiers will bear more of the burden.
"The coalition came a long way to be here, and they have suffered more casualties than at any other point, so remember that in war, even success in battle comes at a price," said Azimi.
Article by Maj. Dan Huvane, NATO Training Mission Afghanistan