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Study: Afghan violence up as troops pull out

 

A new report from the International Crisis Group says violence in Afghanistan is rising as U.S. and coalition troops pull out.

According to the report, published Monday, insurgent attacks increased between 15 and 20 percent from 2012 to 2013, and violence continues to escalate in 2014.

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"With less risk of attack from international forces, they are massing bigger groups of fighters and getting into an increasing number of face-to-face ground engagements with Afghan security personnel, some of which drag on for weeks," the report says.

"There are concerns that the balance could tip in favour of the insurgency, particularly in some rural locations, as foreign troops continue leaving," it adds.

The U.S.-led coalition's combat mission is scheduled to end in December, though military officials recommend leaving a minimum of 10,000 troops to continue training Afghan forces and conduct a counterterrorism mission there.

The U.S. has said it will not leave any troops unless Afghanistan signs a bilateral security agreement outlining the terms of their stay. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has decided to wait for the incoming president to sign it, which is not expected to happen until at least August.

News reports have suggested the administration is considering leaving fewer U.S. troops, or pulling all out entirely.

The Crisis Group report warns that "Kabul may find these challenges difficult to overcome without significant and sustained international security, political and economic support."

On Sunday, a former defense official penned a strongly worded op-ed in The New York Daily News warning the administration against pulling out all troops.

Michael A. Sheehan, former assistant Defense secretary and a career special forces officer, wrote that "with a relentless flow of bad news, there will be a great temptation for the Obama administration to end the U.S. role in Afghanistan altogether by the end of the President’s second term."

"But that would be a major error, one that would jeopardize our security from future Al Qaeda attacks from this region and jeopardize the one great success from our military and intelligence efforts in Afghanistan and eastern Pakistan: preventing Al Qaeda from attacking our homeland," wrote Sheehan, now the chairman of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

"We must not allow unwarranted pessimism to drive an unwise decision to withdraw entirely at the end of this year," he wrote.