29 Sep 2012

Coalition troops resume patrols with Afghan soldiers

6:07 am on 29 September 2012

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta says NATO-led troops have resumed joint operations with Afghan forces after commanders restricted patrols with their allies in Afghanistan due to a spike in insider attacks.

Last week the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) announced a scaling back of joint operations with their Afghan partners following a dramatic rise in such attacks, and international forces stopped mentoring tasks below Kandak or battalion.

The BBC reports that growing number of coalition troops killed by their Afghan allies has raised questions about the recruitment procedures of Afghan security forces - and the trustworthiness of the tribal leaders who endorse each Afghan recruit.

Military commanders call these rogue attacks "green-on-blue" - green for Afghan forces and blue for the coalition. Such attacks have accounted for 114 deaths since 2007.

However, the rate of attacks is increasing and this year has been by far the worst, with 51 coalition casualties - one in seven coalition casualties is now the result of a green-on-blue killing.

But Mr Panetta says most units have returned to their normal partnered options at all levels.

The Pentagon chief says the insider threat will not derail plans to transfer security to Afghan forces by the end of 2014, paving the way for the withdrawal of most NATO combat forces.

Across the Tasman, the ABC reports Defence Minister Stephen Smith has asked Australians to "steel themselves" for the potential loss of more troops as Australia seeks to resume full mentoring duties in Afghanistan.

Mr Smith has again reminded Australians of how difficult the conditions are for diggers in Afghanistan.

He says it remains in the national interest to complete the mission in Afghanistan to reduce the risk of the Afghan-Pakistan border area becoming a haven for terrorism.