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Coalition Suspends Joint Operations With Afghan Forces

September 18, 2012


The NATO-led international coalition in Afghanistan (ISAF) says a decision to curtail joint operations with Afghan forces is a "temporary" response to a "current threat."

Earlier on September 18, U.S. Lieutenant General James Terry, the senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan, issued an order suspending joint operations for units smaller than 800-troop battalions.

The decision was made in the wake of a spate of incidents in which Afghan soldiers and police -- or insurgents posing as them -- turned their weapons on coalition forces. At least 51 coalition troops have been killed in such insider attacks -- also called "blue-on-green" attacks -- since the beginning of the year.

British Defense Secretary Phillip Hammond told parliament on September 18 that the order would have "minimal impact" on operations.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague also said the impact on operations would be "absolutely minimal."

"We will not be giving in to 'green-on-blue' attacks. We will improve our capability to deal with that, and that is what is going on now," Hague said. "So I do not think we should raise the [prospect] of a major change in our approach to Afghanistan, because we need to overcome this problem now."

Two British soldiers were among six coalition troops killed during an insider attack by Afghan police over the weekend.

NATO plans to hand over security to Afghan forces by the end of 2014, but the move to reduce joint operations has been seen as an obstacle to that target. British Labour Party lawmaker Denis MacShane said the decision seems to reverse "the whole axis of U.S. and U.K. strategy in Afghanistan."

Coalition spokesman Major Adam Wojack said the new order will affect the "vast majority" of the 350,000-strong Afghan security forces, which will now have to conduct operations without support from its allies.

Air support, including medical evacuations by air, will not be affected by the order, a NATO spokesman said. Noncombat training operations will also continue.

General Afzal Aman, head of operations for the Afghan Defense Department, told Reuters that his office has not "heard officially from foreign forces" about the order.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, speaking while on a visit to Beijing, said the order would not delay the planned withdrawal of coalition combat troops by the end of 2014.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters


Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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