Afghan Uniformed Police lead the way on a joint patrol with coalition troops in Afghanistan's Laghman province, in September 2011.

Afghan Uniformed Police lead the way on a joint patrol with coalition troops in Afghanistan's Laghman province, in September 2011. (Ryan Crane/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON — The idea that insider attacks are mostly the result of cultural differences is “unfounded,” Afghanistan’s deputy foreign minister said Thursday morning.

“The majority of it is terrorist infiltration,” Jawed Ludin told reporters at the Embassy of Afghanistan. “Some people who think this is essentially a cultural thing vastly overstate. And actually grievously ignore the fact that we’ve been doing this for 10 years now.”

U.S. officials, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Marine Gen. John Allen, commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, have repeatedly said that Taliban infiltration only accounts for about a quarter of the insider attacks, and that the remainder are due to other reasons, ranging from hunger and thirst during Ramadan to cultural misunderstandings.

On Wednesday, British Lt. Gen. Adrian Bradshaw, deputy commander of ISAF, told reporters in a video press conference that he believes NATO is making the environment safer for troops in Afghanistan by taking “sensible precautions” like posting armed guardian angels to keep watch and by improving intelligence-gathering efforts.

But Ludin dismissed the idea that cultural friction is to blame for attacks on international forces by Afghan troops.

“This feeling doesn’t just happen. Do you feel anything like that when you work with someone from another country? No. You may feel distant, but you don’t feel like turning your gun against them,” he said.

Ludin noted, as ISAF officials have, that Afghan troops are more often the target of insider attacks than international troops. He said Afghans are working to root out potential infiltrators that may have slipped through the cracks when the country’s security forces were trying to meet recruiting goals.

“I suppose what happened in that process was that we perhaps overlooked some of the crucial screening requirements, and as a result, the enemy used that as an opportunity to infiltrate,” he said. “A large number of people actually have been taken off the ranks, just because we weren’t satisfied with their background.”

Afghan officials are in contact with the Taliban and are trying to build a process for direct peace negations, he said, a key to stabilizing the country.

“Afghans do want peace, there’s no question about it,” he said. “They actually want peace more than anything else. … But we have had terrible experiences in the past, so we don’t want peace at any cost.”

Ludin said a recent report that Americans have given up hope on a peace deal in Afghanistan was “just nonsense,” but said that even a change in American policy would not deter his country.

“Even if a day came where the American government said they had given up on the peace process, this is an Afghan peace process,” he said. “It’s we who decide when to give up or not, and we won’t give up. Our search for peace will continue.”

hladj@stripes.osd.miltwitter: @jhlad

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