Panetta, Allen to reassure NATO on insider attacks
BRUSSELS (AP) — The killings of more than 130 U.S. and allied forces by Afghan troops or those dressed like them is not deterring NATO countries from the war in Afghanistan, two senior U.S. defense officials said Tuesday.
As NATO defense ministers gather this week, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan will tell worried allies Wednesday what the U.S. is doing to stop the escalating insider attacks.
The officials told reporters that so far NATO ministers attending the conference here have not used the meeting to threaten any additional withdrawals of troops or to seek to limit the combat use of their forces as a result of the attacks.
U.S. officials, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, are expected to assure the ministers that commanders have come up with a range of ways to reduce the attacks. And they will insist that while the Taliban has seized on the attacks as a way to derail the fight and the trust between allied and Afghan forces, it is not yet a threat to the war strategy.
One of the officials said that NATO nations are concerned about both the safety of their forces and the impact on the war, so it is critical to have these discussions with the minister at this high level now. The officials said the coalition will stick to the withdrawal schedule, which has combat forces leaving and Afghan forces taking over security of the country by the end of 2014.
Both Marine Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and U.S. Navy Adm. James Stravidis, NATO's top military commander, were at the alliance's gathering Tuesday along with Panetta, who was holding a series of individual meetings with other ministers. Panetta will make his formal address on Afghanistan to the ministers Wednesday.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the NATO strategy discussions.
Still, there are growing signs that the Afghan political and military hostilities are starting to wear on the coalition.
Compounding the insider attack threat is a recent spike in political tensions between Afghanistan's government leaders and the U.S.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai complained that the war effort is wrongheaded, and that coalition forces are not fighting the right enemy.
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