The "insider" attacks by Afghan trainees on U.S. and NATO troops have forced the suspension of the training program for new recruits, while officials in charge of the NATO training mission reassess the vetting process used to weed out Afghan troops with ties to the Taliban or other insurgents. This year's insider attacks have killed 45 troops, most of them American. One U.S. official told the Washington Post that the guidelines for screening Afghan recruits had been "cast aside" in order to accelerate the build-up of the Afghan army and police.
"Everyone admits there was a lot of international pressure to grow these forces, and the vetting of these individuals was cast aside as an inhibitor," the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Post. Another official said the problem was not in the initial screening of recruits, but the lack of an effective follow-up to spot trainees who had since turned against the government and come under the influence of the insurgents.
"We have a very good vetting process," a senior Special Operations official told the Post, which first reported the story online. "What we learned is that you just can't take it for granted. We probably should have had a mechanism to follow up with recruits from the beginning."
Security measures were ignored or applied inconsistently, NATO officials said, including the "Guardian Angel" program, requiring one or two soldiers to monitor the Afghans in every meeting or mission, with orders to shoot anyone who tries to kill a coalition member. Limits on the off-duty time spent with Afghan troops have also not been followed, NATO officials said, as they were regarded as an impediment to relationship building. An Insider Threat Working Group has been established by NATO leaders to promote enforcement of existing rules and solicit suggestions for new security measures from commanders across the country.
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Photo of Afghan soldier walking behind bullet-riddled wooden target at a firing range in Afghanistan: AP Images