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Pentagon stops training of, partnering with Afghan troops below battalion level

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2012

BEIJING — The Pentagon announced Tuesday that it has stopped training Afghan troops and working with them below the battalion level because of anti-American protests across the Muslim world and a spate of insider attacks by Afghan security forces on their international coalition trainers.

The change, directed by Marine Gen. John Allen, commander of U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, likely will lead to adjustments in how, when and where coalition troops operate, especially during the current period of heightened tension, Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters Tuesday in Beijing, where he is traveling with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta.

"Gen. Allen has directed all operational commanders to review force protection and tactical activities in the light of the current circumstances," Mr. Little said.

"This does not mean there will be no partnering below that level. Now such partnering will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and approved by [regional command] commanders,” he said.

Mr. Little added that, in some cases, Afghan forces are fully capable of more independent activity.

Mr. Panetta expressed concern about the insider attacks but said he believes the plan to train and hand over security to Afghan troops would be completed before international forces leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

"I don't think that these attacks indicate that the Taliban are strong. I think what it is is that they're resorting to efforts that try to strike at our forces and try to create chaos, but do not in any way result in regaining territory that has been lost pursuant to what these [NATO] and U.S. forces have been able to accomplish in terms of the transition," Mr. Panetta said Beijing on Tuesday.

According to the Associated Press, 51 international troops have been killed by Afghan forces or militants wearing their uniforms this year.

"I remain convinced that Gen. Allen will continue to pursue efforts to implement the plan that he has put in place so that we can complete the transition to Afghan security and governance and complete our drawdown by the end of 2014," Mr. Panetta said.

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