By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Aug. 19, 2012 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff arrived here today for consultations with coalition and Afghan leaders.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said he tries to come to Afghanistan every 60 to 90 days to hold face-to-face meetings with leaders. The chairman spoke to reporters traveling with him aboard his C-17.
During this visit, Dempsey will hold meetings at the highest coalition levels – Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, commander of NATO forces here, and Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, commander of U.S. Central Command. The chairman will also meet with “the new players” on the U.S. side, including Army Lt. Gen. James Terry, the commander of the corps command here.
“They’ve been in country about 60 to 75 days and I want to get some insights from them on how they think the campaign is coming,” Dempsey said. “Then I’ll talk to John about the same thing.”
The chairman will also hold meetings with his counterpart, Afghan Army Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi.
The general said he is coming to Afghanistan with an open mind and wants to hear the ground truth.
“I don’t have any new insights to share with you before I get there, but I hope to leave with some new insights,” Dempsey told the reporters.
The coalition leaders will discuss the problem of insider attacks – where members of the Afghan forces turn their weapons on coalition personnel. There have been 40 such insider attacks, and 23 Americans have been killed. The most recent was today in southern Afghanistan.
Dempsey said he was pleased that Afghan President Hamid Karzai strongly spoke out against these attacks.
“The president speaking on it was tremendously important, and I hope it permeates to the lowest levels of the Afghan government and military,” he said. “We speak out about it, and we take measures to mitigate the risk.”
But the more Afghan leaders speak out about this, “the better off we will be,” Dempsey said.
Coalition and Afghan leaders are looking at the vetting process for Afghan soldiers and police. “We’ve had an eight-step vetting process in place in earnest for about a year, but we haven’t turned the corner on it,” he said.
Officials are examining the vetting process and investigating where it failed. This includes going back to village leaders who vouched for these men and asking them what happened.
In his conversations with Allen, the chairman said he will ask if he the commander has all he needs to combat the problem of insider attacks.
The Afghan police are the group most susceptible to launching insider attacks. In discussing the issue, the chairman drew on his experience building the Iraqi police forces.
“The vulnerability of local police to (terrorist) influence is great … They don’t move around the country the way the Army does, so they live at the point of corruption. I’m sure that’s the case here too,” Dempsey said.
“Are the local police more vulnerable to those kind of activities? Absolutely,” he said.