Most Afghan and NATO
troops are now conducting normal partnered operations, Defense Secretary
Leon E. Panetta announced during a news conference here today.
Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, the top U.S. and NATO commander in
Afghanistan, had ordered that all combined operations below the
battalion level be approved by regional commanders following attacks by
Afghan soldiers and police that have killed 51 members of the coalition
U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III taxis to its parking spot Bagram
Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 25, 2012. The Globemaster III is a regular
visitor to Bagram Airfield, transporting troops, equipment and supplies
in and out of Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Raymond Geoffroy)
However, Afghan and coalition troops are now back to conducting
partnered operations as before, Panetta told Pentagon reporters. The
military believes some of the insider attacks were perhaps triggered by
Muslim anger over an American-made internet video that defamed the
“I can now report to you that most ISAF units have returned to their
normal partnered operations at all levels,” said Panetta, who was
accompanied by Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs
Dempsey, just back from a visit to Afghanistan, said partnering efforts
are back to the level they were before the difficulties. Around 90
percent of all operations in the country are partnered.
Even with the insider attacks, Panetta said the coalition and Afghan
efforts are paying off. He said the Taliban were in control of large
swaths of Afghanistan and were poised to take more when the coalition
surge into the country began in December 2009.
Last week, the secretary announced the end of the surge, with the
departure of the last of the 33,000 troops who were ordered deployed.
There are now 68,000 American service members in Afghanistan.
“[The surge] accomplished the primary objectives of reversing the
Taliban’s momentum on the battlefield and dramatically increased the
size and capability of the Afghan national security forces,” Panetta
This will continue, said Dempsey, noting coalition troops will continue
to partner with Afghan soldiers and police. The Taliban has failed to
recover momentum or any territory. “Our Afghan partners are working with
us to shut down the threat of insider attacks,” the chairman said. “As
one Afghan army commander told me, insider attacks are an affront to
their honor, at odds with their culture and their faith.”
Taliban insurgents are actively trying to infiltrate Afghan army and
police formations, Dempsey said. The insurgent group is also trying to
turn Afghan soldiers and police against their coalition allies.
Dempsey said coalition forces are adapting to the Taliban’s change in
“That’s what professional militaries do,” he said. “And we are doing it
in a way that ensures we continue to be able to partner.”
The Taliban wants to break the coalition, the general said, but the
coalition’s resolve to stand with Afghan formations is strong.
Still, it will be tough going in the country, Panetta said. “The enemy
we are dealing with … is adaptive and resilient,” the secretary said.
“Their focus has shifted to carrying out high-profile attacks in order
to undermine the new sense of security that has been felt by ordinary
Panetta expects there will be more high-profile attacks like the one
that struck Camp Bastion last week.
“The enemy will do whatever they can to try and break our will using
this kind of tactic. That will not happen,” he said.
Afghan forces are the “defeat mechanism” of the insurgency, Panetta
“We have an enduring commitment to an Afghanistan that can secure and
govern itself and that is never again a safe haven from which terrorists
can attack us,” he said. “Our men and women in uniform, our fighting
forces, ISAF, Afghanistan fighting forces I think have sent a strong
message to the Taliban that time is not on their side.”