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'Insider killings' challenge US exit strategy in Afghanistan

The Pentagon wants to know whether the recent spike in 'insider killings' – Afghan forces targeting US and NATO forces – reflects 'infiltration, impersonation, and coercion' or is mainly just personal. 

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Marine Gen. John Allen, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Commander, meets with Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, (unseen) in Kabul, Afghanistan, in this photo released Monday.

D. Myles Cullen/Department of Defense/AP

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What is the reason for the growing number of “insider” attacks on US troops by the Afghan security forces that they are charged with training?

It is a troubling topic that the commander of US troops in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, attempted to tackle this week.

There have been 32 confirmed insider attacks so far this year, with at least 40 NATO troops killed – including 26 Americans.

Training Afghan security forces is meant to be the US exit strategy in the country – as these forces stand up, the oft-repeated Pentagon credo goes, US forces can stand down.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai offered his own explanation for the recent spate of insider killings, blaming the Pakistani intelligence services for brainwashing Afghan recruits.

To this, General Allen sounded somewhat skeptical. “I’m looking forward to Afghanistan providing us with the intelligence that permits them to come to that conclusion," he said in a Pentagon briefing Thursday.

The Pentagon for its part has insisted that the vast majority of these killings are the result of personal grievances, “social difficulties,” and arguments gone awry with US forces.

Only 10 percent of these killings, they say, are the result of Taliban infiltration.

Allen offered that the figure might be higher, suggesting that Taliban “infiltration, impersonation, coercion” could account for “about 25 percent or so” of the killings.

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