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The Ministry of National Defense said Thursday that the increase in Afghan troop casualties across country is because Afghan forces are involved in more security operations.

The counterinsurgency missions were once completely led by international forces, especially US troops, but Afghans are increasingly leading missions - and sustaining casualties.

"The war is becoming more Afghan-led. Eighty-four percent of the missions are executed by Afghan forces, and more than 50,000 international troops have left the country. The theater of war has expanded for Afghans," said General Zahir Azimi, spokesman of the Ministry of National Defense.

Reports suggest that US troop casualties have hit a four-year low, with only one casualty in the past month; on the other hand, 1,100 Afghan troops were killed over the past six months, an average of more than 180 a month. About 460 of those killed over the past six months have been national army soldiers, with the rest mainly comprised of police forces.

According to the ministry, more than 80 percent of the Afghan troop casualties are caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted by the armed opposition, an issue that analysts say could have disastrous outcomes if not addressed.

But Azimi said IED deaths could be reduced.

"Good leadership and facilities and proper equipment from our side to fight the IEDs could lead to a decrease in casualties," he said.

Other factors that have led to the increase in casualties include shortage of local forces in remote villages, lack of intelligence and surveillance capabilities, shortage of artillery and the troops' skill levels.

"If these challenges are not addressed, many parts (of the country) will be taken out of the hands of the security forces. The Taliban will replace them, and this will be dangerous," said General Abdulhadi Khalid, former deputy minister for security at the Ministry of Interior Affairs.

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