By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BOGOTA, Colombia, March 27, 2012 – The United States will do more to prevent attacks on coalition personnel by members of Afghanistan’s security forces, but ultimately it will be up to Afghans to stop these tragedies from happening, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yesterday.
Speaking with reporters traveling with him aboard an Air Force C-17 transport jet, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said NATO will have to build up the Afghan counterintelligence function to stop Taliban members from infiltrating the Afghan army or police to kill NATO and allied personnel.
NATO Training Mission Afghanistan has increased training for the program and beefed up the vetting process, the general said.
“There’s an eight-step vetting process that includes everything from letters from tribal leaders to biometrics,” he said. “But where this will finally be solved is when they have the same vetting as we do, because they know who they are better than we do. And the same was true in Iraq.”
The United States still must balance its national security interests against the price service members in Afghanistan are paying, Dempsey said. “I’ll tell you definitively at this point that our national security interests are such that we have to take the additional risk that this brings,” he added.
NATO and U.S. leaders can explore other avenues as well, the chairman said, noting that the more closely NATO and Afghan forces are partnered at the small-unit level, the less likely a so-called “green-on-blue” incident happens. However, he said, big units partnered with other big units don’t seem to have the same effect.
The more individual partnering is, the chairman said, the less likely it is that such incidents occur. “So we are also looking at different ways to partner and work with them,” he said.
Officials will examine the situation and make recommendations in the near future, Dempsey told reporters. “It is a risk to the force, and it is a risk to the nation, and we have to stay on top of it,” he said.
The chairman also addressed the issue of the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The United States will withdraw another 23,000 troops from the country and get back to the pre-surge force of about 68,000 troops. How many to withdraw after that, and how fast, is under discussion, he said.
Dempsey said he needs to see what happens through this next fighting season before making a judgment. “There is a general consensus that the insurgency lost ground, lost momentum, last year,” he said. “What is key to see is what happens this fighting season.”
Another part of the equation is how well the Afghan national security forces do in the coming fighting season, Dempsey said. The police and army will be at the final number of about 352,000 later this year, he added, and also will have most of the capabilities they require to operate. That calculus also effects the decision on troop strength, he said.