WASHINGTON -- A quarter of the "insider" attacks by Afghan army and police against the U.S. and its allies are carried out by Taliban who have infiltrated into the security forces, a higher number than the Pentagon previously estimated, the top U.S. commander said Thursday.
Marine Gen. John Allen, who commands the international forces in Afghanistan, said about 25% of the insider attacks were conducted by Taliban, contradicting a Pentagon claim that an internal review had shown only about 10% of the killings could be attributed to the insurgency.
When asked about the discrepancy, Allen said, “This still requires a lot of analysis.”
Ten soldiers, most of them Americans, have been killed by Afghan soldiers and police in the last two weeks, and the attacks have caused 40 coalition deaths so far this year. That has alarmed senior U.S. officials in Kabul and at the Pentagon, who worry that it will disrupt training of troops and heighten tensions with the Afghan government at a time when the U.S. is trying to hand off more responsibility to them for fighting the insurgency.
Afghan officials on Wednesday blamed the increasing number of insider attacks on infiltration into the army and police ranks by other spy agencies in the region. Asked about that claim, Allen said he was looking forward to seeing the evidence “so that we can understand how they've drawn that conclusion.”
In addition to Taliban infiltration, Allen said the attacks were caused by “disagreements, animosity which may have grown between the individual shooter and our forces in general, or a particular grievance,” as well as threats by the Taliban to harm the families of recruits unless they attack foreign troops.
He said the recent increase in attacks also may be related to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, during which many Afghans fast during the day.
"The daily pressures that are on some of these troops, compounded by the sacrifice associated with fasting, the nature of our operational tempo, remembering that Afghan troops have gone to the field and they have stayed in the field, and they've been in combat now for years, we believe that the combination of many of these particular factors may have come together during the last several weeks to generate the larger numbers," he said.
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-- David S. Cloud
Photo: Marine Gen. John Allen. Credit: D. Myles Cullen / Associated Press