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NATO Cuts Back Some Joint Operations With Afghan Forces


An Afghan soldier stands at a checkpoint in Khost Province. (file photo)
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says some NATO operations with Afghan forces are being cut back due to a surge of insider attacks against foreign troops in Afghanistan, known as "green-on-blue" incidents.

Rasmussen said the measures were "prudent and temporary," insisting NATO's overall strategy in Afghanistan remains unchanged.

"The measures taken aim at reducing the risks for our troops. That's a responsibility of our commanders," Rasmussen said. "But these measures don't change the overall strategy. It remains the same: that we will continue to hand over, in a gradual process, lead responsibility for the security to the Afghan security forces."

He added: "We will continue to partner, to assist, to give advice, to train Afghan security forces. In some cases, it may be that direct partnering will be suspended, which reflects that Afghan security forces are able to operate on their own."

Lower 'Profile And Vulnerability'

Earlier on September 18, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement that some operations "in some local instances" were being temporarily cut back in order to reduce the "profile and vulnerability" of foreign troops in Afghanistan during an "elevated threat" of civil disturbances or insider attacks.

ISAF said media were inaccurately reporting a suspension of NATO's joint operations with Afghan forces.

The ISAF statement specified that the threat resulted from the release on the Internet of an anti-Islam video called "Innocence of Muslims," which has sparked angry demonstrations across the Muslim world during the past week, leaving at least 19 people dead.

ISAF also said it "remains absolutely committed to partnering with, training, advising, and assisting" Afghan security forces. It said partnering between Afghan and foreign troops "occurs at all levels, from platoon to corps" and that "this has not changed."

More 'Green-On-Blue' Attacks

Dawlat Waziri, deputy spokesman at the Afghan Defense Ministry, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that cooperation between Afghan security forces and NATO-led foreign troops continues. But he admitted that cooperation at the level of joint field patrols was "under scrutiny" by NATO and U.S. officials.

"Cooperation at a higher level, including at the battalion level, still exists. Rumors that cooperation has stopped are baseless," Waziri said. "Joint operations at the company and unit levels are temporally under scrutiny. But at all other levels of cooperation, bilateral assistance, and joint operations continue."

At least 51 foreign soldiers in Afghanistan have been killed since the start of the year by uniformed Afghan troops or police serving alongside them.

U.S. military officials say some attacks were the result of cultural misunderstandings. But they admit that Taliban increasingly have infiltrated the Afghan National Army and police since Kabul has increased its recruiting drive ahead of taking over security operations in 2014.

Afghanistan's Defense Ministry has discharged hundreds of soldiers after an investigation into insider attacks.

The U.S. military had already suspended a training program for thousands of Afghan police in response to increased attacks by Afghans in uniform.

Air Support Unaffected

British Defense Secretary Phillip Hammond told parliament on September 18 that the order would have "minimal impact" on operations.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague also said the impact on operations would be "absolutely minimal."

"We will not be giving in to 'green-on-blue' attacks. We will improve our capability to deal with that, and that is what is going on now," Hague said. "So I do not think we should raise the [prospect] of a major change in our approach to Afghanistan, because we need to overcome this problem now."

Two British soldiers were among six coalition troops killed during an insider attack by Afghan police over the weekend.

Air support, including medical evacuations by air, will not be affected by the order, a NATO spokesman said. Noncombat training operations will also continue.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, speaking while on a visit to Beijing, said the order would not delay the planned withdrawal of coalition combat troops.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
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