ISAF general: Criticism of joint operations restrictions is overblown
WASHINGTON — Critics of the International Security Assistance Force plan to limit partnered operations with Afghan soldiers are “making too much of it,” ISAF’s deputy operations officer told reporters Wednesday in a video teleconference from Afghanistan.
Lt. Gen. James L. Terry on Sunday issued rules that require the approval of a regional commander for partnered patrols, following an increase in attacks by members of the Afghan security forces on NATO troops. Previously, junior officers could approve the routine patrols.
Observers have said the move severely threatens the coalition’s Afghanistan exit strategy, which stresses close partnership between NATO and Afghan troops. But Australian Brig. Gen. Roger Noble on Wednesday said the change is “just normal military business and common sense.”
Referencing the protests throughout the Muslim world tied to a movie that denigrates the Prophet Muhammad, Noble said ISAF Commander Gen. John Allen would “be crazy not to heighten force-protection [measures].”
“I think it’s sensible,” Noble said. “We’ve been surprised by the response.”
Earlier this year, Allen temporarily pulled U.S. military advisors from Kabul’s government ministries after two Americans were killed at the Interior Ministry building there. Those attacks happened shortly after soldiers inadvertently burned several copies at the Quran at Bagram Airfield.
“We’re not stupid,” Noble said. “We can learn from previous experience.”
He acknowledged the potential of insider attacks to erode trust and “strike right at the heart of our resolve.”
“It’s one thing to be killed in action fighting insurgents, quite another to be shot in the back of the head at night by your friends,” he said.
Noble, who has been in Afghanistan for 10 months, said he spends much of his time talking to Afghans, and he trusts them, but he always has a weapon and makes sure someone is monitoring what’s going on.
He said ISAF investigates every insider attack to determine potential warning signs for future incidents.
Still, Noble said, insurgents have not been able to really drive a wedge between Afghan and NATO forces.
“Beneath the noise and turbulence,” Noble said, “the campaign remains on track to achieve its objectives.”
Meanwhile, the Defense Department on Wednesday announced the deaths of the four soldiers killed in Sunday’s “green-on-blue” attack in Zabul province. Killed were:
• Sgt. Sapuro B. Nena, 25, of Honolulu, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.,
• Spc. Joshua N. Nelson, 22, Greenville, N.C., assigned to 202nd Military Intelligence Battalion, 513th Military Intelligence Brigade, Fort Gordon, Ga.,
• Pfc. Genaro Bedoy, 20, of Amarillo, Texas, assigned to 52nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
• Pfc. Jon R. Townsend, 19, Claremore, Okla., assigned to 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
The DOD news release only stated that the four died “of injuries suffered when their position was attacked with small arms fire.