World

Afghans pay in blood, losing an estimated 300 a month to take lead in fight against Taliban

  • In this March 22, 2013, photo, U.S. Marine Major Christopher Bourbeau, deputy commander at the 1st Brigade, 215th Corps Afghanistan National Army Advisor Team, at Camp Garmser, Helmand province, in southern Afghanistan, staging a pop quiz on how to tie tourniquets for the Afghan army troops he advises. The Afghan soldier tied the tourniquet in just over 30 seconds. U.S. commanders trying to hand off war-fighting responsibility by the end of 2014 are encouraged by the uneven yet steady progress of fledgling Afghan security forces. (AP Photo/Kim Dozier)

    In this March 22, 2013, photo, U.S. Marine Major Christopher Bourbeau, deputy commander at the 1st Brigade, 215th Corps Afghanistan National Army Advisor Team, at Camp Garmser, Helmand province, in southern Afghanistan, staging a pop quiz on how to tie tourniquets for the Afghan army troops he advises. The Afghan soldier tied the tourniquet in just over 30 seconds. U.S. commanders trying to hand off war-fighting responsibility by the end of 2014 are encouraged by the uneven yet steady progress of fledgling Afghan security forces. (AP Photo/Kim Dozier)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this March 26, 2013, photo, an Afghan police commander explains to local tribal elders how the Afghan security forces intend to search the elders’ villages for insurgents, with an elder accompanying each police team, hours after a combined force of Afghans and Americans encircled the town in a pre-dawn raid. U.S. Brigade commander Col. Joseph "J.P." McGee, of the U.S. Army’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, listens at right, at the Afghan army base next to Forward Operating Base Connolly, in Khogyani district, Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan. U.S. commanders trying to hand off war-fighting responsibility by the end of 2014 are encouraged by the uneven yet steady progress of fledgling Afghan security forces. (AP Photo/Kim Dozier)

    In this March 26, 2013, photo, an Afghan police commander explains to local tribal elders how the Afghan security forces intend to search the elders’ villages for insurgents, with an elder accompanying each police team, hours after a combined force of Afghans and Americans encircled the town in a pre-dawn raid. U.S. Brigade commander Col. Joseph "J.P." McGee, of the U.S. Army’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, listens at right, at the Afghan army base next to Forward Operating Base Connolly, in Khogyani district, Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan. U.S. commanders trying to hand off war-fighting responsibility by the end of 2014 are encouraged by the uneven yet steady progress of fledgling Afghan security forces. (AP Photo/Kim Dozier)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this March 22, 2013, photo, U.S. Army security adviser Lt. Col Bryan Latke of the U.S. Army’s No Slack Battalion 2/327, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division and Col. Hayatullah, commander of the Afghan army’s 2nd Brigade, 201st Corps, meet at the Afghan army’s Sarkani Base in the Kunar province, in eastern Afghanistan. U.S. commanders trying to hand off war-fighting responsibility by the end of 2014 are encouraged by the uneven yet steady progress of fledgling Afghan security forces. (AP Photo/Kim Dozier)

    In this March 22, 2013, photo, U.S. Army security adviser Lt. Col Bryan Latke of the U.S. Army’s No Slack Battalion 2/327, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division and Col. Hayatullah, commander of the Afghan army’s 2nd Brigade, 201st Corps, meet at the Afghan army’s Sarkani Base in the Kunar province, in eastern Afghanistan. U.S. commanders trying to hand off war-fighting responsibility by the end of 2014 are encouraged by the uneven yet steady progress of fledgling Afghan security forces. (AP Photo/Kim Dozier)  (The Associated Press)

Afghan forces are taking over more territory and leading more operations with less U.S. help, but they are paying the price in blood.

Casualties doubled last year and are rising again to roughly 300 troops and police killed each month, according to an Afghan security official who spoke anonymously because the figure has not been publicly undisclosed.

The Americans are trying to teach them after every tactical error, while there are still enough foreign forces to serve as a safety net ahead of the December 2014 NATO troop drawdown.

U.S. and Afghan officials say their most realistic goal is for Afghan forces to maintain a bloody equilibrium with the Taliban, holding urban areas and trade routes, buying time for the economy to improve while persuading the Taliban to stop fighting.