News / Asia

Despite Massive Taliban Death Toll No Drop in Insurgency

An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier is seen through damaged glass as he keeps watch at the Forward Base in Nari district near the army outpost in Kunar province, Feb. 24, 2014
An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier is seen through damaged glass as he keeps watch at the Forward Base in Nari district near the army outpost in Kunar province, Feb. 24, 2014
Afghan police and army units are killing an average of 12 Taliban fighters every day but according to experts the high death toll is having little effect on Taliban recruitment efforts or the group’s ability to stage attacks. 

Fighting that led to the initial collapse of the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in late 2001 did not come with heavy casualties, but now 13 years later, as the U.S. is set to end its combat mission the Taliban casualty rate has skyrocketed. 

As they take the lead in the war effort, Afghan army and police killed over 720 Taliban insurgents in January-February 2014, according to official news releases compiled by VOA Dari Service.

Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry sends news statements on almost daily basis describing military operations by police forces in different parts of the country in which Taliban casualty figures (killed and wounded) are noted. 

Since the interior ministry’s news statements report less than 50 arrests of Taliban fighters in January and February but that more than 720 were killed during the same period, the data indicates that Afghan security forces are mostly killing Taliban fighters than capturing them.

Najib Danish, a spokesman for the interior ministry, confirmed the authenticity of the casualty figures gathered by VOA and said those killed included foreign citizens.

“Among the terrorists killed were citizens of Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Arab countries and Chechnya,” said Danish who could not provide precise figures for each nationality. 

Zabihullah Mujahid, a purported Taliban spokesman, repudiated the interior ministry’s figures saying the numbers were inflated to boost the morale of government forces.

Over 300,000 Afghan security forces, police and army, are fighting Taliban insurgency but the country’s defense ministry does not regularly release insurgents’ casualty numbers resulting from its own counterinsurgency operations.

There are still about 60,000 U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban but a NATO spokesman said the allies are not recording enemy casualty numbers.

A regenerating force

Since 2001 the Taliban have regrouped, mostly in sanctuaries in Pakistan, and have launched an intensifying insurgency in Afghanistan.

It’s unclear how many Taliban have been killed over the past 13 years but estimates vary from 20,000 to 35,000.

Just over a decade ago in the early years of the insurgency, the Taliban were a hit-and-run force of about 2,000 foot soldiers but as much as efforts to kill them have intensified so have their regenerating capacity, experts say.

In 2014, the core Taliban force is estimated at over 60,000, according to Matt Waldman, a Fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School and an Associate Fellow at Chatham House.

“Afghan security forces have inflicted heavy casualties on the Taliban," said Waldman adding that the heavy death toll had not weakened the insurgency.

Casualties are highest among the Taliban’s rank-and-file members while their leaders have largely been spared, living in safe havens in remote parts of Afghanistan or across the border in Pakistan.   Experts say targeting these leaders would do more to defeat the insurgency than focusing on killing large numbers of foot soldiers. 

U.S. drones strikes and other counterterrorism measures which have been largely carried out in the  tribal areas of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province have killed many Pakistan Taliban leaders but most Afghan Taliban leaders are believed to be hiding out in Pakistan’s Baluchistan and Sindh provinces.  

Other casualties

For the first time in over a decade of war against Taliban, the Afghan government has listed the casualty figures for Afghan security forces.

At least 13,700 Afghan police officers and army soldiers have been killed in the war with more than 16,500 others wounded, according to a statement issued by President Hamid Karzai’s office on March 2.

More than 3,420 NATO allied forces, among them 2,315 U.S. service personnel have died in the war, according to iCasualties website.

Additionally, about 15,000 Afghan civilians have also lost their lives in the war since 2007, according to the United Nations.

Excluding civilian casualties prior to 2007, before the U.N. began recording them, the Afghan war has cost more than 32,000 lives – Afghans and foreigners. This figure does not count the thousands of Taliban fatalities. 

And it does not count the more than one million Afghans who died between 1979 and 1989, after the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, or the hundreds of thousands of Afghans who died in a the brutal civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal. 

By some accounts at least two million Afghans have died in more than 35 years of nearly continuous conflict.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More