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Number Of Afghan Security Forces Drops 10 Percent During Past Year

Afghan security officials inspect the scene of a bomb blast near a voter-registration center in Jalalabad on April 29.

The U.S. government's watchdog on Afghanistan says the number of Afghan security forces has decreased by nearly 11 percent during the past year as security in the country has deteriorated.

In a quarterly report to the U.S. Congress that was released on May 1, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said the number of troops in the Afghan National Defense and Security forces (ANDSF) totaled an estimated 296,400 people in January.

That was a drop of 10.6 percent compared to the same month in 2017.

The authorized strength of the ANDSF is 334,000 -- including personnel in the army, air force, and police.

The United States and NATO have been attempting for the last 17 years to build the capacity of Afghan security forces so that it is able to defend and hold territory.

But SIGAR says the Afghan government now controls only about 56 percent of the territory in the country.

"Building up the Afghan forces is a top priority for the U.S. and our international allies, so it is worrisome to see Afghan force strength decreasing," SIGAR chief John Sopko said.

With reporting by Reuters