February 26th, 2012
11:26 PM ET

Afghan violence exposing lack of U.S. trust in Afghanistan

By Barbara Starr

In the latest sign of how strained U.S. and Afghan military relations have become, a senior U.S. official tells CNN, "There is a strong sense inside the Obama administration that the Afghans did not do enough to quell the violence" that has erupted since the burning Qurans and other religious material a week ago.

"We are not going to settle for what has happened to our troops in recent days," the official said. He declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the situation. This official has access to the latest intelligence about the situation and is involved in discussions inside the administration.

The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, said the Afghans have not been totally absent in trying to stop the violence.
"I think we need to bear in mind that the Afghan security forces, throughout this whole process, have been seeking to quell these demonstrations," Crocker said in an exclusive interview on CNN's "State of the Union."

"They've done so with loss of life on their side as well as some of the protesters, and they have been defending U.S. installations. So they are very much in this fight trying to protect us," Crocker added.

Still, the official who spoke to CNN is reflecting a sentiment felt across several levels of the U.S. military about the critical lack of trust that has erupted.

"There will have to be a new building of trust," the official said. But what can be done to fix it - and what happens if it not fixed - remains the tougher question.

He emphasized that Gen. John Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta want a specific commitment from the administration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to quell the violence, as well as to provide new security measures at Afghan ministries where U.S. military personnel work.

Allen has specifically told his commanders he will not authorize the return of personnel to the ministries until those measures are in place and he is convinced they are working, the official said.

Crocker told CNN that he, too, has pulled all diplomatic staff from Afghan ministries until things calm down.

"Administration officials are appalled by what happened at the Interior Ministry," the official said, referring to the killing of two U.S. military personnel there by an assailant. The official said there is growing belief this was "an inside job" by someone who had access to the secure area in which the Americans worked.

As to the future of the U.S.- Afghan relationship, the official said "a lot depends on the Afghan commitment to stronger measures to curtail violence."

But the official also acknowledged that if the Afghan government does not step up, it's unclear what, if any, additional response the United States might have beyond its strong rhetoric. The Afghan ministers of defense and interior canceled a planned visit to Washington this week, to stay in their country and work on the situation.

A senior U.S. military official acknowledged that for the troops and their commanders, the issue of trust "is on the table right now. I would be lying if I told you it wasn't."

Gen. Allen Friday visited troops in the field and in an impassioned speech told them not to enact revenge, after several U.S. troops have been killed and wounded in the recent violence.

But the ministry killings are generating exceptionally raw feelings because they took place inside a secure Afghan government building.

"There is no doubt an incident like this chips away at trust," the military official told CNN. "I am not going to tell you there hasn't been concern."

Both officials said the United States believes many of the violent demonstrations have sprung up spontaneously and while the Taliban has claimed some credit so far, there is no evidence of a broadly organized effort.

soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. ClarkClurn

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  3. guardian angel

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    March 31, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Reply
  4. GR

    he's right about foreigners popping out babies all the time that we have to support because their parents are losers

    March 1, 2012 at 8:43 am | Reply
  5. mipolitic

    obama policies are broken , washington is broken , canada's oil is going to china , usa foreign policy is broken, and highest price at the pumps ever.

    February 28, 2012 at 10:01 am | Reply
  6. Asif

    LOL. How does it feel when one of yours die? It hurts. Well you guys have been killing innocent civilians more than the actual terrorists. So no sympathy from us. You deserve all the death and hopefully more of your soldiers will die. LOL funny thing is that you guys dont learn your lessons.

    February 27, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Reply
    • Mess101

      Thanks for the death wish jerk!

      February 27, 2012 at 11:11 pm | Reply
    • Buzzer

      Asif: You don't comprehend the difference between intentional killing of civilians with IEDs to create chaos and "terror" in the population (terrorists) and the unintended deaths of civilians as a direct result of terrorists deliberately hiding among the civilian population because they don't have the capability (they would and do get their butts handed to them) and/or courage (especially in Iraq) to stand toe-to-toe with our military servicemembers DO YOU? Go to ANY website that studies the civilian casualities in Iraq and Afghanistan on who responsible for the VAST MAJORITY of the deaths...they are from IEDs deliberately planted by insurgents in Iraq (terrorist) and Taliban/foreign fighters (terrorists) in Afghanistan...everyone with half a brain and is half way educated knows it. So, since you obviously know what a computer is, how to access a news website and type coherent sentences...I'm thinking you do comprehend what is stated above and can discern...therefore you're just a TROLL throwing grenades to get a shock reaction...utterly PATHETIC.

      February 28, 2012 at 12:01 am | Reply
    • John C Finley

      I have one little problem. You can condone the killing by beheading of someone who leaves Islam for Christianity. You can condone the destruction of the Buddhas. But the burning of the Quran, is an unpardonable sin. There are ten billion names of God/Allah/Jehovah all children of Abraham with Buddha even a prophet of the one being. Why do you continue to condemn your brothers and you cannot even agree among yourself as to Shia and Suni. There are sins and no one is innocent for all the killing in the name of the one being. I believe even the simplest shaman has his link to GOD.

      February 28, 2012 at 4:27 am | Reply
  7. MyPictureOfMuhammad


    February 27, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Reply
  8. Peace

    End all foreign wars. Let's take care of America first.

    February 27, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Reply
  9. Matt

    Well the ANSF are in a difficult position themselves, yes it is social unrest, but the issue that started it is problematic for them. If they were to crackdown too hard that could make an unpopular security forces, even more unpopular. Said it many time perceptions it is all about perceptions.

    You certainly do not want to create the perception that the indigenous security forces are involved in suppressing protests, yes they are violent protests, in relation to a sensitive matter of the Koran, that involves the death penalty. Just as the incident in the secure area in relation to our officers via an Afghan, which was not a Taliban incident. You could end up with ANSF against ANSF, breaking into factions, killing each other.

    February 27, 2012 at 10:54 am | Reply
  10. rightospeak

    We know that you are a talking head for endless wars, Barbara. We need to stop occupying that country. The Soviets tried , the British before them and failed.Now since we are broke the occupation does not look good, we need to get out ASAP to save lives and money.

    February 27, 2012 at 10:38 am | Reply
  11. michaelfury


    February 27, 2012 at 8:32 am | Reply
  12. mipolitic

    ya ten more years of this is crazy , obama says washington is broken , and the usa foreign policy is broken the only common factor of the two is obama inability to do anything other than talk . bring home the troops. all this foolish talk about we must stay , in a place where the people do not want nothing to do with us is absurd . obama plan is faulty and broken

    February 27, 2012 at 7:57 am | Reply
  13. David

    I work in the Afghan Ministry of interior with my Afghan counterparts nearly every day, I would not do it if I did not trust the Afghan people I work with, it is part of the job. 11 years of war does not build a community without emotional scars, it is discouraging to see these setbacks, but we do quit just because it is difficult. The way life is here will change, it will get better for the Afghan people and the world. Evil people never win the long fight if enough good people will stand up. There are many very good Afghans who take a great personal risk to support us, the West sometimes confues them by the way we act, but the Afghans want a better world for their children. The west should not quit here, there is a lot of work yet to do.

    February 27, 2012 at 5:44 am | Reply
    • Buzzer

      I and the majority of the people that read your post probably to believe you...

      The problem is, is that there aren't enough of the folks you're talking about...you're talking about probably 33%, another 33% don't want us there helping anybody and influencing them with our way of doing things and want it back to the 12th century and the other 33% are so poor and barely getting along they don't care which way they go, as long as they can feed their family. Maybe the way of life will change there, in the long term but I, and the American people don't feel that the blood of American servicemembers are worth it anymore and don't have the patience...western "patience" is 1/3 of what these people are use to...what we feel should take 5 years to correct, is 15-20 in the eyes of a Afghani. We've been there 10 years and the amount of progress isn't outweighing the sacrifice anymore.

      We went into Afghanistan to exact justice for the Americans killed on 9/11 and bring the perpertrators to justice (dead or alive)...we have to an acceptable level, accomplished that objective. With a long-term vision (nobel, but gullible) we expanded that objective by trying to shape an environment that would be less condusive to creating and/or harboring terrorists by not just gaining intelligence and making it impossible for terrorists organizations re-establish, we went a step further trying to reshape a country...unfortunately Afghanistan isn't a country, its a "tribal area" with too many factions to be a stable and functioning nation-state.

      Bottom line, the U.S. military and other militaries in Afghanistan are not "nation builders", their mantra is to "kill people and break their things". They can provide security, but unless the majority of the people in the nation want their help or there are so many "boots on the ground", security cannot be effectively provided and "nation building" cannot effectively be started until said security is provided. Until the world can create an effective and cohesive "nation building" organization, the indigenous people are the ones that are going to have to do the heavy lifting, and if they can't, the I know its harsh, but they are going to have to accept what they have/don't have or move.

      February 27, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Reply
      • Jo

        Well Buzzer, As an active duty Master Sergeant with the 5th Special Forces (Green Beret) Training Afghan Forces. I can tell you that the Majority of the people in Afghanistan want us training them. 85% of the regular Afghan army are illiterate and it is not an easy task training them, but I can tell you this on every Operation that we have had with combined forces these People are willing to die for us. One incident in Particular was one of our team members was shot in the leg by an afghan soldier, (an accident) while on a raid to capture a senior Member of the Taliban Forces. The man felt so bad about this accident that he rushed a machine gun nest on his own and was wounded in the chest. I am glad to report that he did survive. You are not there, I am! So You might as well stop running your mouth about things that YOU ONLY READ AND I LIVE, day to day.

        February 28, 2012 at 10:45 am |
      • DAN

        Jo, What you are doing is very good and noble but in the end we are building up the enemy. We will see them again and it won't be as you think. We surely are using up our blood and money for a government that will not be on our side in the end.

        February 28, 2012 at 11:52 am |
      • DAN

        All you have to do is look at Egypt!

        February 28, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
      • Buzzer

        Well Sergeant, seeing as how I'm 15 years active duty Major USAF and have done 3 deployments to Afghanistan and did similar work that you're doing, I'm not "running my mouth". I am in NO WAY slamming the hard work that YOU AND I have been doing over there. And I am in NO WAY slamming the folks that we're training and I'm not slamming YOU and ME. I know the mind set of the vast majority of Afghans that have signed up, but that 85% you're referring to is part the 33% that I was referring to...if the majority of Afghan population that was of this mindset that are serving, we'd have huge crowds of folks signing up...more than what we know what to do with, but you and I know thats not the case, encouraging numbers signing up, but not huge.

        With all due respect, step back, read the my post again...don't think I'm "giving up" on our own troops or the Afghans serving, I looking at the writing on the wall...the Afghan government doesn't have the hearts and minds of the "majority" of the Afghan population. What is this due to? Nothing that the U.S. military has done, we've done the best that anyone could expect...this is about corruption above both of us in the Afghan government, illiteracy in a population thats easily brainwashed and tribal infighting...things that YOU and I know, WE cannot solve in the timeframe that the U.S. public is willing to put up with. For what you're doing, press and make the best of a tough situation and be proud of what has been accomplished, knowing you have made no excuses.

        February 28, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Lisa

      First, I'm sure life has been completely upended for you David and I want to say I honor your work and your passion for it. I do note one part of your comment..."There are many very good Afghans who take a great personal risk to support us.." I think that's the central argument. They should be doing what they do because they are doing it to support themselves and their fellow countrymen, not us. As long as conditions are in place where real trust is not present, particularly for the ground troops trying to implement the policies that come out of walled compounds...it seems futile to me. I have two sons who have fought in Afghanistan. One has been there twice, one has been there once and will return. I've been to funerals and to see men I care about fighting to heal after giving up limbs in that country. As long as they see the men they are asked to fight alongside getting high in the morning, keeping drug caches, and keep running into situations where they feel certain their patrols were compromised by the men they are supposed to be mentoring...with the leader of that country NEVER acknowledging it...what is left? President Karzai indicated he was saddened by the most recent murders. He only indicated that after his statement, when he was asked a question about it. There was no outrage, no apology, nothing. Nothing. There was outrage about the recent grenade attack but if it were only Americans slaughtered rather than Afghan citizens, I don't believe we would have heard a peep. If the American people aren't paying attention, the military doesn't seem to care and is redeploying patchwork units in the most insane manner imaginable, AND the Afghan people not only do not want self-determination but only want someone to pay the bill...please. I was so worried when we went in that we would "abandon" them again and hyper-conscious of the history. Now I say enough. Enough. If the majority of the Afghan populace wanted change they wouldn't be so eager to turn on a dime against us. With weapons and fighters crossing with abandon from Pakistan, and a nation that is led by a craven leader...what is left except doing what we have been doing? Throwing more lives and limbs at this fight? Do you know what my son's friends all have in common? One a Marine and one an Army Scout? They call themselves "Expendable". They see themselves as expendable in this fight. I used to argue the point but I don't any longer. We are turning our best men into cannon fodder and nobody really seems to care.

      February 28, 2012 at 12:24 am | Reply

    the violence, is getting out of hand, sum tin should be done.

    February 27, 2012 at 5:05 am | Reply
  15. Gijoe

    They STILL in afganistan?What they doin?U S war on national soverignty worldwide.Hard to support the troops when our own national security is pathetic at best.We have 50 million foreign invaders here now crapping out 400 000 federal bastard jackpot babies per year

    February 27, 2012 at 12:55 am | Reply
    • jACKSON

      Gijoe...go play with your Barbie doll and leave the discussion for those with at least half a brain.

      February 27, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Reply

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