ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - A top official in Afghanistan said Tuesday that at least 50 people die every day fighting terrorist forces in his country, underscoring the intensification in the 17-year-old Afghan conflict.
The Afghan national security advisor, Hamdullah Mohib, while addressing an international security conference in Russia, called for coordinated joint action to tackle the menace of terrorism.
Afghan security forces, together with American partners, have been battling Taliban insurgents and terrorists linked to Islamic State, which is trying to expand its influence in the turmoil-hit country.
“Only in Afghanistan, at least 50 people pay the ultimate sacrifice in the fight against terrorism on a daily basis, which makes Afghanistan the country at the front lines of the fight against terrorism,” Mohib said. His office in Kabul released the copy of the speech to media.
Mohib’s rare disclosure came as Taliban insurgents have intensified battlefield attacks during the current summer fighting season, inflicting heavy casualties on pro-government forces and capturing new territory. Separately, IS militants also routinely carry out suicide bombings and other attacks targeting Afghan forces as well as civilians.
But Afghan officials often downplay their battlefield losses and lately they have barred the U.S. military from declassifying casualty figures among their embattled national security forces.
President Ashraf Ghani revealed late last year that national security forces lost more than 45,000 personnel since he took office in 2014. The violence comes as a U.S.-led peace dialogue with the Taliban is underway to bring an end to the war and prevent IS as well as other terrorists from establishing a foothold in Afghanistan.
Mohib reiterated that income from the illegal narcotics trade is fueling violence in his country, which is the world’s largest producer of opium poppy.
“Narcotics is known as the main source of revenue for terrorism that generates billions of dollars every year. There is a chain -- from production to trafficking to processing and consumption -- that includes not just Afghans but many other countries in the region and beyond,” the Afghan advisor said.
Drug money is funding about 60 percent of the Taliban’s violent campaign, according to U.S. military commanders.
Calls for border cooperation
Mohib called for enhanced border cooperation between Afghanistan and regional countries to deter terrorists from entering the country and causing instability.
“Thousands cross borders in our region illegally to join terrorist groups, receive training, and target our citizens; joint cooperation to manage our borders in the region, share information in real time, and equip border forces with the required technology that is important to fight hybrid threats,” the Afghan security official noted.
He did not name any country but Afghans have long accused neighboring Pakistan of sheltering Taliban insurgents and sponsoring terrorist attacks in their country.
Islamabad rejects the charges and in turn alleges anti-state militants are using hideouts in “ungoverned” Afghan border areas to launch attacks inside Pakistan.
The Pakistani military is installing a fence and building new outposts along the nearly 2,600 kilometer border with Afghanistan, saying they will help deter illegal crossings in either direction and address mutual security concerns.