International Security Assistance Force Commander U.S. Marine Corps General John Allen visits Forward Operating Base Farah, August 11, 2012. Photo: ISAF/Flickr
General John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said he still doesn’t know why at least 10 NATO troops have died in the last two weeks at the hands of the Afghan forces they mentor. He suspects it may have something to do with asking those Afghans to perform dangerous operations during the recent Muslim holy month. Maybe.
If that doesn’t sound like a positive sign for the decade-long war — after all, the entire American strategy now depends on turning security over to the Afghans — Allen wasn’t in a mood to sugar-coat Afghanistan. In what may have been the bluntest press conference delivered by a top commander since the U.S. went to war in 2001, Allen told Pentagon reporters he expected Afghanistan will still suffer from “violence” after U.S. combat ends in 2014; that Hamid Karzai’s government has to act “now” to govern parts of the country that NATO has taken from the Taliban; and that a reduction in violence in the country since last year “may not be statistically significant.”
During the past several weeks, Afghan forces have turned their guns on the U.S. troops that mentor them with increasing frequency. The Afghan troops have killed at least 40 U.S. and allied forces this year, the most since the war began, and Karzai’s government insists the blame lies with Pakistani infiltrators, not Afghans themselves. Allen diplomatically said he was “looking forward to the Afghans providing us with the intelligence” they’re using to reach that conclusion.