Decline in strength of Afghan forces less sharp than thought: US watchdog

Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers marching during a training exercise (Hoshang Hashimi/AFP)
Updated 16 May 2018
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Decline in strength of Afghan forces less sharp than thought: US watchdog

  • Incorrect information had suggested that the number of recruits in the Afghan National Army had depleted by 10%

KABUL: The strength of Afghanistan’s security forces has declined less sharply than previously reported, a US watchdog says, citing incorrect figures given by the American military last month.
The quarterly report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), released in April, had incorrectly stated that Afghan security forces had been depleted by about 10 percent over the course of a year.
Based on that figure, there were estimated to be 296,409 active military, police and intelligence personnel as of January 31.
But on Tuesday SIGAR said corrected figures from United States Forces-Afghanistan “indicate a total ANDSF (Afghan National Defense and Security Forces) strength of 313,728 as of Jan. 31.”
“The new numbers still show that overall ANDSF strength declined sharply from January 2017 to January 2018 (by 17,980 personnel), though not as sharply” as reported, the watchdog said.
The confusion was “the latest in a series of problems SIGAR” has faced regarding information about Afghan forces, it said.
The updated figures come on the heels of another deadly day in Afghanistan as the Taliban launched an assault on the western city of Farah.
Commandos from Herat and Kandahar were rushed to the provincial capital as US and Afghan air forces carried out airstrikes. This helped to push the insurgents to the outskirts of Farah by early Wednesday, though a clearing operation was still going on.


An Australian archbishop has become most the senior cleric in the world to be charged with covering up child sex abuse

In this image made from video, Archbishop Philip Wilson, center, heads to Newcastle Local Court, north of Sydney, Australia on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. (AP)
Updated 3 min 3 sec ago
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An Australian archbishop has become most the senior cleric in the world to be charged with covering up child sex abuse

  • 7 percent of Catholic priests working in Australia between 1950 and 2010 had been accused of child sex crimes
  • Australia completed a five-year government-appointed inquiry into child sex abuse in churches

SYDNEY: An Australian archbishop was Tuesday found guilty of covering up child sex abuse in the 1970s — one of the highest-ranked church officials globally to be successfully prosecuted for such offenses.
Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson was accused of concealing abuse by notorious paedophile priest Jim Fletcher in the New South Wales Hunter region by failing to report the allegations.
His legal team reportedly made four attempts to have the case thrown out, arguing Wilson’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s should preclude him from trial — although it did not prevent him retaining his position in the church.
Magistrate Robert Stone found him guilty at Newcastle Local Court of concealing a serious indictable offense of another person, with the archbishop facing a maximum of two years in jail. Sentencing will be at a later date.
There was no dispute during the hearing that Fletcher, who is now dead, sexually abused altar boy Peter Creigh, but that Wilson, then a junior priest, did nothing about it when he was told.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported from the court that Stone found Creigh to be a truthful and reliable witness.
“I am satisfied and find that Mr.Creigh described to the accused he performed fellatio of Fletcher and masturbated Mr.Fletcher,” he said.
Stone added that he did not accept Wilson could not remember a 1976 conversation in which Creigh described the abuse, saying he “had no motive or interest to deceive or make up the conversation.”
The charges laid against Wilson, in 2015, stemmed from the work of Strike Force Lantle, which since 2010 had investigated claims of child abuse concealment by former and current clergy attached to the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese of the Catholic Church.
His conviction is another headache for Pope Francis, whose papacy has been haunted by allegations of sex abuse among Catholic priests.
Last week, 34 Chilean bishops announced their resignation over a child sex abuse scandal.
Several members of the Chilean church hierarchy are accused by victims of ignoring and covering up child abuse by Chilean paedophile priest Fernando Karadima during the 1980s and 1990s.