US Marines of the 1st Battalion 7th Marines Regiment arrive for a shura meeting between US Marines, local police and residents at PB Fulod in Sangin on June 12, 2012. (ADEK BERRY/AFP/GettyImages)
The coalition command in Afghanistan says that a
suspension in some joint operations between U.S. and Afghan forces is
temporary and will not hurt affect the campaign to train and build
Afghan security forces.
"There's no backing off from that at all," said Army Col. Tom Collins, a military spokesman in Afghanistan.
command ordered a pause in some operations following a recent spike in
insider attacks and amid concerns over violence in the Middle East and
Afghanistan coming from protesters angry over an anti-Islam video
produced in the United States.
coalition troops have been killed this year by Afghan security forces or
people posing as Afghan troops in so-called insider attacks, up from 35
such deaths last year.
The new order will
reduce the exposure of coalition forces to the risk of insider attacks
at a time of mounting tensions, the coalition command said. Collins said
the coalition will return to full operations as soon as possible.
orders reflect the command's efforts to reduce the risk to U.S. forces
without undermining the bonds between coalition and Afghan forces at a
time when the strategy depends on that trust, according to the Pentagon.
going to take all the steps necessary to try to protect our forces in
this situation," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said during a trip
through Asia. "But, having said that, we are also going to continue to
proceed with the basic plan that we have put in place for transition in
Under the orders, joint
U.S.-Afghan operations below the battalion level will for now require
approval from top-level commanders. Coalition trainers who are embedded
with Afghan military staff at the higher level will not be affected by
But Afghan and U.S. troops
frequently conduct joint operations at much lower levels, including
squads and platoons. Much of the Afghanistan war is conducted by these
"We're not at a standstill by any
sense of the word," said Collins, who added that the coalition will
return to full operations as soon as possible.
the past, coalition officials have said the insider attacks are
typically the result of isolated circumstances and not a Taliban
strategy to infiltrate the Afghan military. About 25% of the insider
attacks are linked to the Taliban, according to the coalition. The rest
are attributed to personal grievances, cultural misunderstandings and
Still, the Taliban stands to
benefit from the attacks because they risk undermining trust between
coalition and Afghan forces at a time when the bonds are critical,
Afghanistan analysts say.
objective is to put a wall or barrier" between Afghanistan's security
forces and the coalition, said Seth Jones, a political scientist at RAND
Corp., a think tank.
Jones said he has not
seen any evidence to suggest that joint operations have been
dramatically reduced as a result of the order or that the order has had
an impact on relations between Afghan and coalition forces.
increase in insider attacks comes as the U.S. is reducing the number of
troops in Afghanistan and working to build the size and effectiveness
of the Afghan army and police. The coalition said it is on track to
reach a level of 352,000 Afghan soldiers and police by October.
will not lose sight of the fundamental mission here, which is to
continue to proceed to assure a peaceful transition to Afghan security
and governance," Panetta said. "We're going to stick to that mission."