By Nick Simeone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stressed again today that NATO’s decision to curtail closely partnered operations with Afghan forces because of on-going attacks on the coalition is only a tactical change that will not undermine the goal of producing a trained Afghan security force by the end of 2014.
Answering questions following remarks at the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said the new rules issued by NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in response to insider attacks are being wrongly portrayed as a revision of NATO’s overall goals in Afghanistan.
“They’re tactical changes in response to a changing threat and by the way to tensions that have been generated over the release of this video and other things that are inflaming the Muslim world,” Dempsey said. “But they’re in no way an indication that we’ve changed our campaign objectives.”
The order was issued Sept. 16 in response to a series of deadly attacks by Afghan soldiers and police, or individuals posing as them, which have killed 51 members of the coalition this year.
A day after telling American Forces Press Service that he has sought lessons from history by consulting with his Russian counterpart on the decade of Soviet experience in Afghanistan, Dempsey made clear that the coalition will adapt to the threat, comparing it to the U.S. experience in Iraq when roadside bombs, or improvised explosive devices, emerged as the single-biggest threat to American forces during the war there.
“To suggest that we shouldn’t be adapting to the insider threat, it’s kind of analogous to me to say ‘OK, well we’ve got IEDs, let’s just keep driving down the road, maybe at some point they’ll stop blowing them up,’” the chairman said. “It’s not about changing the objectives, although somehow it’s being portrayed that way.”
Dempsey also acknowledged the United States faces “significant challenges” in the Middle East following days of anti-American violence in countries where populations have overthrown dictators during the Arab Spring, including in Egypt and Libya.
At this point, he said, the United States is uncertain where all this change is heading, and should behave cautiously.
“Einstein said, ‘If I have an hour to save the world, I’ll spend 55 minutes understanding the problem and then five minutes solving it.’ I feel like we’re still in that first 55 minutes,” the chairman said. “We need to figure out where this thing is all going, and then -- and only then -- should we be engaged in trying to help solve it.”