WASHINGTON – Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey called the insider attacks by Afghan forces against NATO trainers a “very serious threat” but said the problem will not derail the U.S. relationship with the Afghan military, nor will it slow plans to withdraw troops in the coming years.
“This is not jeopardizing our objectives, just making it a little tougher,” he said at an event at the National Press Club on Wednesday. “The bond between our forces and the Afghan forces will be ultimately what gets [the Taliban] defeated.”
Dempsey’s comments came as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pressed European allies in Brussels to supply more trainers for the Afghan war effort, despite the growing threat of inside attacks. More than 50 coalition troops have been killed by their Afghan trainees this year.
The chairman said military leaders can’t eliminate the threats of the attacks but are working to mitigate them through better vetting of trainees, better cultural training for all troops and by establishing closer relationships between the trainers and the novice security forces.
“We know one of the ways we can mitigate the risk is by getting closer to [the trainees],” he said. “You can’t commute to work, just show up for four or six hours a day and leave. You have to be part of their lives.”
Dempsey said troops he has talked to in Afghanistan understand the threat, but also the need to prepare the new forces to take over security in their country.
The military is scheduled to withdraw all combat troops from Afghanistan in 2014, although Dempsey said a detailed timeline won’t be established until next year.
The chairman also said he has talked to Afghan military officials about the problem, both to find solutions and to reassure them of the U.S. commitment to a long-term partnership.
“They suffer losses in these incidents, too,” he said.