Top US general in Afghanistan to discuss attacks
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The U.S. military's top general met with senior officials in Afghanistan on Monday to attempt to stop a recent wave of attacks by Afghan soldiers and police against international forces in the country.
Once an anomaly, attacks from inside the Afghan security forces have been climbing in recent months. There have been 30 such attacks so far this year, up from 11 in 2011.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, landed at Bagram Air Field outside Kabul earlier in the day. Dempsey and the commander of U.S. Central Command, Marine Gen. James R. Mattis, met with NATO and U.S. Afghan commander Gen. John Allen in Kabul and discussed the progress of the Afghanistan campaign, a statement issued by the coalition said.
Allen said in the statement that they discussed "how to maintain momentum against the insurgents," adding that international forces continued to support a push to train and equip Afghans in preparation of the departure of most international combat forces at the end of 2014.
"The campaign remains on track," Allen said in the statement.
Dempsey and Mattis also met with a number of senior Afghan and coalition leaders, the statement said.
Ahead of the talks, a spokesman for international forces in Afghanistan said Dempsey would be bringing up the rising number of attacks by Afghan forces in his discussions.
"He's certainly talking about a number of issues including progress with the (military) campaign and the like," Jamie Graybeal said. "He's also obviously talking about the insider attacks," he added, declining to provide further details.
In the latest such attack Sunday, two Afghan policemen turned their weapons on U.S. troops in Kandahar province, killing an American service member, officials said. That raised the death toll to 10 U.S. troops killed in such attacks in the space of just two weeks.
Sunday's attack happened in Kandahar's Spin Boldak district near the border with Pakistan. One of the attackers was killed when the troops returned fire and the other escaped, Graybeal said.
A U.S. Defense Department official confirmed that the dead service member was American. The official spoke anonymously because the nationality of the deceased had not been officially released.
The Taliban have been actively recruiting members of the Afghan security forces, saying in a statement last week that they considered these turncoat attacks a major part of their strategy against international forces.
On Saturday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called Afghan President Hamid Karzai to encourage him to work with U.S. commanders to ensure more rigorous vetting of Afghan recruits. It was disclosed Friday that U.S. troops have been ordered to carry loaded weapons at all times in Afghanistan, even when they are on their bases. The order was a precaution against such insider attacks.
Meanwhile, in the eastern province of Paktia, three Afghans from a politically connected family were killed when their car struck a roadside bomb. Provincial police chief Zulmai Oryakhail said one of the dead had two brothers close to the government -- one an adviser to President Hamid Karzai, and the other a former provincial governor and parliamentarian who is now a tribal leader.
The blast occurred outside of the provincial capital of Gardez, Oryakhail said.
Pacha Khan, a relative of the dead men and former governor of Khost province, said he believed the Taliban had been following his family members and targeted them specifically.
"Three times in the past two years they sent suicide bombers to attack me. They are the enemies of Afghanistan and they killed my family. They followed them," Khan said.
Such targeted killings of Afghan civilians have surged this year, according to the United Nations. Civilian deaths from targeted killings and assassinations jumped 34 percent for the first six months of 2012 to 255 killed, from 190 in 2011, the U.N. said in a report issued earlier this month.