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Responding to 'insider' attacks, NATO cuts back joint operations with Afghan forces (+video)

Following a string of attacks by members of Afghan security forces against foreign troops, NATO announced that it is temporarily reducing support for Afghan forces.

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NATO ordered a cutback on Tuesday in operations with Afghan forces in response to a surge of so-called insider attacks on foreign servicemen, but said the restriction was temporary and would not derail a 2014 handover of security to Afghans.

The order indefinitely suspending most mentoring operations came from the second most senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Lieutenant-General James Terry, and applies to all front-line missions involving units smaller than an 800-strong battalion.

But a senior NATO spokesman, U.S. Colonel Tom Collins, said the order was only a "temporary and prudent response" to current threats of insider attacks and a week of mounting anger across the Muslim world over a film mocking the Prophet Mohammad.

"It will apply only until the threat level returns to a tolerable level," Collins said, adding that separate training missions would be unaffected.

So-called enabling missions, such as NATO helicopter support for Afghan troops and medical evacuations by air, would also be unaffected, Collins told Reuters.

But even a limited cutback is a major turnaround for NATO's core mission of a strong training role for the 350,000 members of the Afghan security forces. They will now have to cope with reduced support from the 100,000-strong NATO-led force backing the Afghan government against Taliban insurgents.

The White House said President Barack Obama's timing for handing over security responsibility to Afghan forces and eventually withdrawing U.S. troops were unchanged. "It doesn't affect the timeline," spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

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