US Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta spoke with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on the telephone about the challenges of insider attacks against coalition and Afghan forces in the country.
"They expressed shared concern over this issue and agreed that American and Afghan officials should work even more closely together to minimize the potential for insider attacks in the future," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said in a press release.
Panetta encouraged Karzai to maintain ongoing rapport with International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) commander Gen. John Allen in efforts to further strengthen ISAF-Afghan cooperation and counter the insider attack threat, Little said.
Measures to counter the threat include augmented counterintelligence, more rigorous vetting of Afghan recruits and heightened engagement with village elders, who often play a key role by vouching for Afghan security personnel.
The two leaders also discussed the "significant progress" of American and Afghan forces as the transition process moves forward, Little added.
Panetta thanked Karzai for his recent statements condemning such attacks, Little said.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey arrived in Afghanistan on Sunday for consultations with coalition and Afghan leaders, which will include the problem of insider attacks.
There have been 40 insider attacks, where members of the Afghan forces turn their weapons on coalition personnel, in Afghanistan, the Pentagon says.
37 ISAF soldiers, mostly Americans, have been killed in such attacks. The latest in the series occurred on Sunday in southern Afghanistan.
Speaking to reporters traveling with him aboard his C-17, Dempsey said he is coming to Afghanistan with an open mind and wants to hear the ground truth.
Coalition and Afghan leaders are looking at the vetting process for Afghan soldiers and police. "We've had an eight-step vetting process in place in earnest for about a year, but we haven't turned the corner on it," the US General said.
Officials are examining the vetting process and investigating where it failed. This includes going back to village leaders who vouched for these men and asking them what happened.
The chairman said he will ask Gen. John Allen if he has all he needs to combat the problem of insider attacks.
The Afghan police are the group most susceptible to launching insider attacks. In discussing the issue, the chairman drew on his experience building the Iraqi police forces.
"The vulnerability of local police to (terrorist) influence is great … They don't move around the country the way the Army does, so they live at the point of corruption. I'm sure that's the case here too," Dempsey said.
He said he tries to come to Afghanistan every 60 to 90 days to hold face-to-face meetings with leaders.
Dempsey, who landed on Bagram Airfield, is set to hold meetings with Gen. John Allen, U.S. Central Command commander Gen. James Mattis, Lt. Gen. James Terry, the commander of the US corps command in Afghanistan, and his counterpart, Afghan Army Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi.
by RTT Staff Writer
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