The Times’ casualty report data. Official figures are rarely disclosed by officials. Some forces are also taken prisoner and others defect.

The void left by dwindling security forces has given rise to more militias — used by the government or by regional factions — that many fear will turn on the government or recruit directly from the military and police, fracturing those organizations along ethnic and political lines.

In the air force, there are enough pilots but not enough aircraft, because of overuse, battlefield attrition and maintenance cycles, said one Afghan helicopter pilot, who was not permitted to speak to the media. What aircraft are available, another pilot said, usually only go to help the special operations forces.

While the Afghan government uses small drones to watch the battlefield, one of its few advantages over the Taliban, it only has enough to cover hot spots.

But even with operational planes and armed helicopters, Afghan troops frequently complain of the air forces’ slow response: By the time an aircraft is overhead, soldiers or police need their wounded and dead evacuated, they say, not an airstrike.

Col. Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, who commands a commando regiment in the south, said that it will be near impossible to rely on the air force after the U.S. withdraws. “We must have the air support of foreigners,” he said.

Speaking from the U.S.-backed Ministry of Defense in Kabul, the capital, Gen. Yasin Zia, the army chief of staff and acting minister of defense, acknowledged the logistical and military challenges his forces face once the United States and NATO withdraw.

But, he said, “we will find a way to survive.”

Thomas Gibbons-Neff reported from Mazar-i-Sharif, Najim Rahim from Kabul and C. J. Chivers from Binghamton, N.Y. Fahim Abed contributed reporting from Mazar-i-Sharif, Asadullah Timory from Herat, Taimoor Shah from Kandahar, Farooq Jan Mangal from Khost and Zabihullah Ghazi from Nangarhar.

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In Kabul’s Streets, Dogs Rule the Night

KABUL, Afghanistan — Civilians in Afghanistan’s capital live in constant fear of being killed in a targeted attack as the war with the Taliban and other extremist groups drags on. But at night, a different war is being fought — against criminals, and packs of stray dogs stalking the streets.

The shop owners in one Kabul neighborhood speak of a shadow government.

“There are dogs and armed thieves who make people’s lives here hell,” said Fahim Sultani, a local elder who works from the empty dusty hulk of the run-down Aryub Cinema in the northwest part of the city, which he has converted into a makeshift office.

As Afghanistan’s economy has been battered by the coronavirus, crime has flourished in Kabul. Just after the lockdown last year, the dogs on Mr. Sultani’s street, and a handful of security guards, watched what has become a staple in the city: An ice cream vendor in front of the theater was shot at and robbed, he said.

The stray dogs roam throughout the city and are a strange and sad fixture of Kabul, known for snapping, snarling and attacking people passing by, mostly those just trying to eke out a living. By day, the animals rest, conserving their energy until twilight, when they, along with the criminals, command the streets.

report from the Afghan Analysts Network. The Ministry of Interior Affairs declined to provide crime data for the past year, but in early 2020 the uptick in incidents pushed government officials to ban the use of motorbikes — the primary method of travel for many criminals — though the ruling was barely enforced.

Bearing the brunt of such lawlessness are shop owners like Mohammed Ibraheem, whose small shop that sells drinks and snacks less than a mile from Aryub Cinema is swathed in darkness after sunset. The few streetlights and the steady glow from nearby restaurant signs quickly fade as the road edges along a hill. At the top of the hill is a decaying palace from the 19th century.

Mr. Ibraheem, 20, has worked in his shop for at least seven years. His tired voice sounds as if it comes from someone three times his age.

In the last year, he has been forced cut his hours, coming to work late in the morning and leaving in the early evening to try to avoid both the dogs and the thieves. There are now fewer hours during which he can make a living, he said, as he stood near the cardboard boxes in his shop filled with chips and sodas.

“The government and the police, they do what they can,” Mr. Ibraheem said. “But they don’t have the capacity to fight dogs, terrorists and thieves.”

Two shops down, Jawad, 50, who like many Afghans uses just one name, said he was earning half of what he usually made in the past because he too has had to shorten his work days.

“It’s mentally traumatizing,” said Maryam Sultani, 19, a woman who lives next to the theater but bears no relation to Mr. Sultani. She has heard stories from her father about when they used to show movies there decades ago.

“From one side there are the dogs that keep you from leaving the house and from the other it’s the thieves,” she said.

The animals are easily identifiable, the criminals not so much.

Near the shopkeepers’ neighborhood, atop a hill-turned-graveyard-turned-kite flying-arena, a group of friends have opted for peace with the pack of dogs that live among the headstones. On a recent day, a gaggle of half a dozen or so children — all local boys from the area between the ages of 9 and 14 — have appointed one of their own as their certified dog whisperer. Sometimes the boys feed the dogs; other times they play with them. Mostly they just try to coexist.

It is a move rooted in strategy they reckon, so that Four Eyes, Red, Big Feet and Rex — as they’ve come to call the dogs — won’t attack them at night. And maybe, just maybe, the dogs might defend them against any of the nefarious two-legged species lurking in the dark.

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