Stress and gripes, not Taliban, drive Afghan insider attacks - NATO

KABUL Mon Apr 2, 2012 5:47pm IST

U.S. servicemen board a transport plane before leaving for Afghanistan at the U.S. transit center at Manas airport near Bishkek, March 27, 2012. REUTERS/Vladimir Pirogov

U.S. servicemen board a transport plane before leaving for Afghanistan at the U.S. transit center at Manas airport near Bishkek, March 27, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Vladimir Pirogov

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KABUL (Reuters) - Personal grievances, battle stress, and domestic problems are behind more attacks by rogue Afghan security forces on NATO troops than are Taliban infiltrators, the coalition said on Monday.

Western forces have stepped up security to prevent more attacks, after the killing of 17 foreign soldiers by Afghan security personnel this year, NATO spokesman Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson told reporters.

In some cases, that includes increased protection on hand in case more Afghans turn their guns on Western mentors. A series of insider attacks has raised doubts over the ability of local forces to take over security responsibility.

"The vast majority (of reasons for attacks) lie in the individual. Personal reasons, personal grievances are one of the major causes," Jacobson told reporters.

"One of the things that we are finding is that in many cases there were signs and symptoms that could have been seen, and leadership has to be improved to make sure that those signs are seen in the future, in time before an incident happens."

The rise in insider attacks on foreign soldiers has stoked fears that either Afghan soldiers and police have turned against their colleagues, or the security force has been infiltrated by Taliban insurgents.

Last month, an Afghan general said the Taliban have a sophisticated system in place to breach Afghanistan's security forces.

Attacks by Afghan forces against NATO have grown more frequent as relations between the Kabul government and its western backers has frayed. A U.S. soldier has been charged with killing 17 Afghan civilians in a village massacre last month, and the inadvertent burning of copies of the Koran at a major NATO base in February sparked days of rioting.

After the killing of the villagers in Kandahar's Panjwai district, Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded foreign soldiers withdraw from the small bases which underpin the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force's anti-insurgency strategy ahead of the expected withdrawal of most foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.

U.S. commanders in Panjwai say they have not made any changes to their existing precautions against insider attacks.

Jacobson said Afghan counter-intelligence agents were being placed into local police and army units to stop attacks by looking for disgruntled or distressed personnel.

"A soldier that returns from leave has to be watched for any changes in his behaviour, a soldier that has seen considerable battle stress has to be observed and a soldier who hasn't been on leave for a long time has to be looked at," Jacobson said.

(Editing by Rob Taylor and Daniel Magnowski)

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