By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON – The threat of attacks on coalition service members by Afghan security forces is a complex problem that requires a comprehensive, integrated and combined response from coalition and Afghan officials, the commander of NATO'S International Security Assistance Force said in a written statement issued today.
“The challenges of the Afghan operating environment are many and countering this threat requires unwavering vigilance, close cooperation and a constant assessment of the situation,” Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen said. “There is no one single solution or simple means to deal with the challenge posed by insider threats. But I can assure our friends and foes alike that I take this issue very seriously and my entire command is absolutely driven to do everything we can to reduce this threat.”
Afghan security forces or attackers wearing Afghan uniforms have killed 45 ISAF service members this year.
“It's important for everyone to understand the work that is being done,” Allen said in his statement. “There is a great deal of activity at all levels of ISAF, in our communications and coordination with the Afghan government, and in our military-to-military cooperation between the coalition and the Afghan national security forces.”
The dedication to eradicating the threat runs from the highest levels of ISAF headquarters to every Afghan and coalition service member in Afghanistan’s most remote corners, Allen said, noting that the attacks threaten both coalition and Afghan forces and require a coalition and Afghan solution.
The general noted he approved a delay in training about 1,000 new recruits for the Afghan Local Police program, in which villagers in remote areas of Afghanistan provide security in their communities with training from U.S. forces and under the auspices of Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry and provincial chiefs of police. The training delay will free up resources to re-vet the 16,000 Afghans already serving as local police.
“This force is on the job today, working and achieving results alongside other Afghan and coalition forces,” Allen added. “The immediate operational impact of this decision is that about 1,000 ALP recruits who have not yet entered in the training pipeline will be delayed for a relatively short time while the Afghan government, with coalition support, conducts the necessary checks to ensure we are doing all we can to protect our people.”
Special Operations Joint Task Force Afghanistan, led by Army Maj. Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, oversees Afghan Local Police training and recommended the delay, Allen said, noting he approved it in his capacity as commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan.
“Other subordinate commanders within ISAF and U.S. Forces Afghanistan are assessing the situations within their particular areas and for their specific missions,” Allen said. “Through their combined efforts and inputs, overseen and coordinated at the highest level, we will be best positioned to defeat insider attacks. The entire coalition and our [Afghan] partners are moving as one toward that end.”
The decision to delay ALP recruit training also helps maintain and reinforce the reputation of the Afghan Local Police as a legitimate, trained and properly overseen arm of Afghanistan’s national security force at the local level, Allen said. “It supports the continuing ISAF and Afghan government’s efforts to professionalize this force,” he added.
The general dismissed recent allegations of reprisal killings by local police in Kanam in Kunduz province.
“There are no ALP forces serving in this area, yet these rumors gain credence in certain sectors because of inaccurate reporting and confusion of the ALP with unauthorized, illegitimate local militias that have long been a feature of local community life in Afghanistan, but which are now a comparatively rare phenomenon as the Afghan government extends its influence,” he said.
The change to the training timeline applies only to the Afghan Local Police and does not affect the rest of Afghanistan’s security forces, Allen emphasized. And it is only one of many recent actions taken to confront insider attacks, he said, adding that he has communicated frequently with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on the issue.
“I have his personal assurance that the Afghan government and military are full partners in our efforts to eradicate this problem,” Allen said. “My senior commanders and staff are also holding frequent meetings with representatives of the Afghan government and security forces at the national and local levels to coordinate further effective action.”
The general stressed the need for the coalition, Afghan forces and the Afghan government to work together in meeting the challenges of insider threats.
“The problem of insider attacks hurts our Afghan partners as much as they hurts us, and like the battle for stability in Afghanistan, insider attacks are a problem that we are only going to solve through steadfast partnership,” he said. And in the meantime, he added, every day provides examples of solid cooperation throughout Afghanistan.
“On any given day, the 350,000 members of the Afghan national security forces continue to relentlessly pressure the insurgency in every corner of this country,” he said. “This includes 8,000 Afghan commandos and 3,000 Afghan National Army special operations forces, who recently themselves underwent intensive re-vetting without missing an operational step.”
Similar efforts are occurring in other sectors of the Afghan security forces, he added. “This point is proof positive that we can do what we need to protect the force, in full partnership with the Afghan government and security forces, all while keeping unrelenting pressure on the insurgents,” he said.
The general also outlined various steps being taken to deal with the insider threat:
-- The organization and execution of major conferences with top commanders and senior Afghan representatives;
-- A new executive oversight group of senior Afghan and coalition leaders to monitor, direct and drive threat mitigation initiatives, supported by a combined multi-agency working group whose only task is to tackle the insider threat problem.
-- Improvements to the vetting process for new Afghan recruits;
-- An increase in the number of counterintelligence teams in coalition and Afghan formations;
-- Helping the Afghan national security forces develop new procedures for Afghan National Army soldiers returning from leave;
-- An anonymous insider threat reporting system;
-- Enhancement of intelligence exchange between Afghan forces and the coalition; and
-- Establishment of a joint investigation commission to study incidents and to identify lessons and required actions.
“The sum total of our combined efforts will be that we are better protected,” Allen said. “Central to success is maintaining and strengthening our bonds with our Afghan brothers and recognizing this is a threat directed at us all.
“Relentless pursuit of the enemy is a key line of operation, and this applies equally to the insider threat,” he continued. “I can assure you that we will sustain our focus on this threat and we will constantly review, adapt and modify our arrangements to deliver maximum protection to our troops.”