When then-Army Gen. Stanley M. McChrystal took command in Afghanistan in 2009, he wrote a new strategy that included partnering, which methodically took hold the next year. The goal: To improve the lackluster performance of the Afghan army with hands-on role models.
Mr. Biddle explained the big change: “We moved from a model of mentoring to a model of partnering. What that language meant, we had been using relatively senior advisers working at relatively senior command echelons for the Afghan forces to help them become more proficient. So officers would work with Afghan officers to improve their planning procedures.
“But the troops in the field were mostly operating on their own. We decided that wasn’t producing change fast enough or in a sweeping enough way, so we went to a partnering model in which Afghan and American forces would live and eat together, train together and fight together.
“When Afghans went out on patrol, there would be Americans out with them at the platoon and squad level,” Mr. Biddle said.
At NATO headquarters in Brussels, Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Tuesday called the patrol suspension “prudent and temporary.”
“Let me be clear: We remain committed to our strategy, and we remain committed to our goal of seeing the Afghans fully in charge of their own security by the end of 2014,” he told reporters, according to the Associated Press. “The goal is unchanged, the strategy remains the same and the timeline remains the same.”
At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney said: “The president’s policy of gradually turning over security lead to Afghan forces continues. And that is part of a broader strategy that will result in more American troops coming home.”
Together or apart
But Mr. Biddle, who has long worked on Afghan war policy, saw the move as a significant step away from the McChrystal buddy system.
“If you think what green-on-blue is doing, that it is showing you a bigger problem, the way to deal with that problem is to de-conflict the two forces and get them out of everyday grass-roots contact with each other, which is what the order did,” he said.
It is the most significant step the command has taken this year to try to stop the green-on-blue killings. (Green-on-blue is a standard military reference that originated in attacks by host security forces on U.N. peacekeepers, who wear blue helmets. However, the international coalition in Afghanistan is not a U.N. peacekeeping force and does not wear blue helmets.)
Previously, the command had designed a system of “guardian angels” — armed U.S. troops who watch the Afghans as they train, fight and live with the Americans. The command now has ordered all U.S. troops to be armed at all times.
It also set up new screening and rescreening procedures done by joint U.S.-Afghan military, intelligence and medical officials. It has culled several hundred Afghan security personnel who previously had passed muster.
And NATO has stepped up sensitivity training of Western troops so they understand what can offend a Muslim.
John Pike, who directs GlobalSecurity.org, said separating troops is not the answer.