The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) recently released figures that show 1 out of 4 Afghan combat troops went AWOL or quit in the year ending in September. Desertion rates are so high and retention rates so low that Gen. McChrystal’s plans to build up the Afghan National Army (ANA) to replace American troops for Afghan security will not work, if the trends continue, because the ANA can get barely enough recruits to replace the losses. Making matters even worse, the loss rate is accelerating while the growth of the ANA is slowing. Moreover, A U.S. GAO report showed the ANA has a 19% absenteeism rate, leaving just 26,000 troops available for combat.
To fight this growing problem the DoD changed accounting procedures in September 2008. Formerly, only troops that were trained and assigned to a unit were counted. Now everyone, including green recruits, is included in the overall strength figures.