Published: 02 October, 2012, 02:05
NATO could pull its forces from Afghanistan before its planned withdrawal date of 2014. Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also conceded that intensifying green-on-blue attacks could be a premeditated Taliban ploy.
“From now until the end of 2014 we will see announcements of redeployments, withdrawals or drawdown,” Rasmussen told The Guardian. “If the security situation allows, I would not exclude the possibility that in certain areas you could accelerate the process.”
There are currently 120,000 NATO troops in the country training a local force three times this size.
But Rasmussen admitted that the transition is hindered by a stream of so-called green-on-blue attacks, where local trainees turn on their mentors, often unexpectedly and with deadly result. Nearly 50 NATO troops have been killed in such incidents so far this year.
“There’s no doubt insider attacks have undermined trust and confidence,” said Rasmussen, who left his post as Prime Minister of Denmark in 2009 to take the top NATO job.
Previously, NATO claimed the majority of such attacks were isolated incidents driven by petty conflicts and personal grudges, but Rasmussen admitted the situation is more complex.
“It’s safe to say that a significant part of the insider attacks are due to Taliban tactics – probably it is part of a Taliban strategy.”
He also claimed that not all infiltrations are as intricately planned as they may seem.
“We have seen where the militants were in Afghan uniforms, though they are not members of the Afghan security force.”
Rasmussen says the ultraconservative Islamist organization hopes to force a drop in public support for NATO’s Afghanistan mission with a constant drip of negative publicity.
Despite the morale-draining attacks and the continuing failure to establish control over the entirety of the mountainous country, Rasmussen asserted that any withdrawal would not be “a race for the exits,” and would only happen once the transition is secure.
“Political decisions will be taken based on … recommendations as to how we will adapt to the transfer of lead responsibility to the Afghans,” he promised. “The pace will very much depend on the security situation on the ground.”
Afghanistan bomb blast kills U.S. soldier
KABUL, Afghanistan — A bomb blast in southern Afghanistan fatally wounded a American soldier Tuesday, the U.S. military said in a statement.
Officials provided no further details beyond the statement, which read: “A U.S. Forces-Afghanistan service member died of wounds following an improvised explosive device attack in southern Afghanistan today.”
The incident followed an attack Monday by a suicide bomber on a motorcycle against a joint patrol by Afghan and coalition forces in the eastern city of Khowst that left at least 20 people dead, including three soldiers whom Afghan authorities identified as American.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization declined to give the nationality of the dead military personnel.
Afghan authorities raise death toll to 20 in motorcycle bombing
Abdul Jabar Nahimi, governor for Khowst province, said the blast killed 10 Afghan civilians and six Afghan police officers, in addition to the three Americans and an Afghan interpreter. More than 60 other people were injured, including three Afghan police officers.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization had confirmed the deaths of the coalition soldiers and the Afghan interpreter in an earlier statement, but did not immediately release the nationalities of the soldiers killed.
Khowst is one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous provinces, perched on the border of Pakistan’s volatile tribal areas that serve as sanctuary for some Afghan insurgents. In December 2009, the province was the scene of a suicide bombing of a CIA base that killed seven the intelligence agency’s employees and contractors.
Joint patrols have become one of the most controversial aspects of the uneasy partnership between Washington and Kabul, as both sides prepare for the handoff of security responsibilities to Afghan forces by the end of 2014. So-called insider attacks — members of Afghan security forces killing their coalition counterparts — have claimed the lives of more than 50 U.S. and coalition troops this year.
In reaction to the jump in insider attacks, NATO earlier this month temporarily suspended joint operations with Afghan security forces, allowing them only if they were approved by a high-ranking regional commander. Though the restrictions remain in place, U.S. officials say cooperation on joint operations has resumed.
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