By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 20, 2012 – Afghan leaders are just as concerned as coalition authorities are about insider attacks, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said today after meetings here.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said this is the first time in his dozens of trips to the region that Afghans have exhibited this same level of concern.
“I am reassured that the Afghan military and civilian leaders understand how important this moment is,” he said.
This year has seen 32 incidents of Afghan soldiers and police turning weapons on coalition personnel, said Brig. Gen. Gunter Katz of the German air force, a NATO spokesman. The alliance is taking precautions and will continue to study the situation, he said.
Dempsey said his meeting with Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, Afghanistan’s defense chief, showed him the Afghans recognize the problem.
“In the past, it’s been us pushing on them to make sure they do more,” Dempsey said at Kabul Air Base. “This time, without prompting, when I met General Karimi, he started with a conversation about insider attacks – and, importantly, insider attacks not just against us, but insider attacks against the Afghans, too.”
From Jan. 1 to Aug. 19, 32 insider attacks this year have resulted in 22 deaths, a senior defense official said. In all, 40 coalition personnel had been killed and 69 others have been wounded in those attacks. Over the same period in 2011, the official added, 16 attacks resulted in 28 deaths and 43 wounded.
Dempsey said he does not anticipate changing the basic way coalition forces work with their Afghan allies, but acknowledged that remains to be determined. “The actual key to this might not be to pull back and isolate ourselves, but [to] reach out and embrace them even more,” the general said. “Again, this is my instinct based on conversations today that I now have to flesh out with our leaders.”
In addition to meeting with Karimi, Dempsey met with Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, commander of U.S. Central Command; Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force; and Army Lt. Gen. James Terry, the commander of ISAF Joint Command.
Dempsey also discussed the nascent anti-Taliban movement in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province and other areas in the country.
A senior NATO intelligence official told reporters residents of Ghazni’s Andar district protested against the local Taliban closing schools and attacking village leaders. In April, they banded together and forced the Taliban out. The movement has since spread, and residents have spontaneously banded against the Taliban in 26 other areas of the country.
Dempsey called the movement “a very positive step, and one that should be encouraged.”
The chairman said he does not want to overstate the importance of the movement, because it is somewhat isolated. But it indicates the Taliban’s message is being rejected, he added.
Dempsey said the Taliban started the fighting season with three objectives: discrediting Afghanistan’s central government, impeding the development of the national security forces, and recapturing lost territory.
“In every one of those objectives they’ve failed,” he said. “We have given a real opportunity for the Afghan government to establish its governance by allowing the security environment to show progress and, therefore, hope.”