By Mike Mount
About 25% of attacks by Afghan security forces against U.S. and other allied troops in Afghanistan come from Taliban infiltrators, a much higher number than the 10% the Pentagon had estimated, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan said Thursday.
U.S. Gen, John Allen, the chief commander of the International Security and Assistance Force, spoke to reporters Thursday at the Pentagon by video teleconference. He said that by his estimation, a quarter of the "green-on-blue," or "insider" attacks were insurgency-based. But he could not dismiss a Pentagon review that had said only about 10% were by Taliban forces that had sneaked into Afghan military and police ranks.
"This still requires a lot of analysis," he said. "So if it's just pure Taliban infiltration, that is one number. If you add to that impersonation the potential that someone is pulling the trigger because the Taliban have coerced the family members, that's a different number," he said.
"It's less about the precision of 25 versus 10 than it is acknowledging that the Taliban are seeking ultimately to have some impact in the formation," Allen said.
On Wednesday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai met with his national security team to discuss a spate of attacks on NATO troops by uniformed Afghan forces. He said the attacks were efforts by foreign spy agencies to undermine Afghan security institutions, but he did not specifically identify any countries.
During Thursday's news conference, Allen was asked about Karzai's claim.
"The reasons for these attacks are very complex, and we're going to look at all of the reasons," Allen told reporters. "I'll tell you that I'm looking forward to Afghanistan providing us with the intelligence that permits them to come to that conclusion, so that we can understand how they've drawn that conclusion and we could add that into our analysis."
The recent rise in the attacks could also be partly blamed on stresses related to the Ramadan holy month, in which Muslims, including Afghan security forces, fast during the day.
"The daily pressures that are on some of these troops - compounded by the sacrifice associated with fasting, the nature of our operational tempo, remembering that Afghan troops have gone to the field and they have stayed in the field, and they've been in combat now for years - we believe that the combination of many of these particular factors may have come together during the last several weeks to generate the larger numbers," he said.
According to Pentagon statistics, in 2012, there have been 32 attacks resulting in 40 coalition deaths from insider attacks, and 25 of those deaths were U.S. troops. In 2011, there were only 20 attacks resulting in 35 International Security and Assistance Force troop deaths.
Concerned about the uptick in the attacks, Allen earlier this month ordered all allied forces at NATO headquarters in Kabul and all bases across Afghanistan to carry loaded weapons around the clock.
In Afghan combat situations, all troops are armed. But at other locations, only base security forces had been regularly armed. Those troops have been called into action when insurgents have launched attacks on the base.
Additionally, U.S. troops in Afghanistan are given pamphlets that advise troops under attack to "resolve the situation with forces at hand" and not wait for backup. Unarmed troops at meetings or dining halls have been vulnerable in the past, but now, all are carrying their weapons loaded with a magazine of ammunition. Weapons must be within arm's reach at all times, according to U.S. military sources.
The pamphlet offers broad indicators of behaviors by Afghans that could indicate they are a threat, a Defense Department official said.
U.S. troops are also getting additional training in the U.S. before deployment on how to respond to these attacks.