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American Forces Press Service

Coalition Remains Resolute Despite Insider Threat, Chairman Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Sept. 18, 2012 – The insider threat will not lessen the coalition’s resolve to accomplish its objectives in Afghanistan, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said today.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke about the insider threat in Afghanistan during an interview conducted after a visit to Turkey.

“We are absolutely resolute in our commitment to the objectives of our campaign, but … on the path to achieving those objectives we will make adjustments as we go,” he said.

The insider threat -- attacks on coalition personnel by members of Afghanistan’s security forces or people wearing Afghan uniforms -- is serious, and coalition and NATO leaders are leaving no stone unturned in the efforts to reduce and eliminate the threat, Dempsey said.

“I have a very close relationship with my Russian counterpart [Army Gen.] Nikolai Makarov, chief of the General Staff, and I’ve had two video teleconferences with him, seeking their insights into the experience of insider threats during their time in Afghanistan,” Dempsey said. “It was very helpful.”

The chairman also takes lessons from history. He noted that the British also faced an insider threat when they were in Afghanistan in the 19th century. The threat is part of every war in which outside forces help build indigenous forces, he said.

But building these indigenous forces is the right strategy for Afghanistan, he said. The roughly 340,000 trained members of the Afghan national security force today will grow to 352,000 shortly. These forces are taking the lead for operations, protecting roughly 75 percent of the Afghan population. At the end of 2014, NATO and coalition forces will end their combat mission and will remain in Afghanistan only to train and assist local forces.

Given the size of the Afghan forces, those who turn their weapons on their coalition allies are a small, small number, the chairman pointed out. But the coalition and Afghan government must assess the situation where the attacks take place and find out how to stop the attacks from happening, he added.

“What we need to do is look at these places and understand why there is a greater propensity, and to arm ourselves against it and to continue to encourage our Afghan partners at every level of their leadership to be engaged with us in this,” Dempsey said.

It should come as no surprise the coalition and Afghan forces are adapting operations to meet changing threat conditions, Dempsey said, and unrest over the portrayal of Islam in a YouTube video is part of the threat that coalition forces face.

“It’s important to note that it is not just the threat condition of the insider threats that we are reacting to, but the heightened tension related to the reaction of the Islamic world to the video,” he said. “You’ve got this kind of nexus of activities, and it’s absolutely prudent of commanders at every level to adjust their activity.”

Training for Afghan forces has not been cut, the general said. Recruit and unit training continue at the bigger base camps and operating locations, but there have been changes in the way Afghan and coalition units partner.

“I expect that two weeks from now, [Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan] will be looking at the conditions as he confronts them and making other assessments,” Dempsey said. “That’s what we expect our commanders do.”

The insider threat is complex and must be seen in context, the chairman said. While the Taliban have infiltrated and conducted some attacks, other killings are not ideological. The International Security Assistance Force has an assessment of what proportion of these attacks is related to infiltration, and what percentage is caused by other factors, the chairman said.

“ISAF has a team that goes to the location … to assess whether this was an infiltration or some other aspect of our interaction with them so we can stay ahead of it, or catch up to it,” he added.

The Taliban have been calling for the Afghan security forces to turn against their American partners for years, the chairman said. Insider attacks have increased this year, he said, and Afghan and coalition officials will work together to understand the root causes of these attacks.

“We will constantly make adjustments to our campaign in response to changing threats, whether that is increases in rocket and mortar attacks, or increases in improvised explosive attacks or increases in insider attacks,” Dempsey said.

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