WASHINGTON --- International Security Assistance Force leadership continues to take steps to protect its forces as they advise Afghan security forces, ISAF’s deputy commander said here today.
Speaking to Pentagon reporters through video teleconference from ISAF headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Adrian J. Bradshaw of the British army discussed countermeasures that have evolved to reduce the threat of insider attacks, particularly after a YouTube video, “The Innocence of Muslims,” sparked protest in the Muslim world.
Attacks by members of Afghanistan’s security forces or insurgents wearing Afghan uniforms have killed dozens of coalition service members.
“We've faced a period of particular threat with respect to insider attacks in the aftermath of the very insulting and damaging film that was circulating over the Internet,” Bradshaw said. “It caused widespread disturbance across the Middle East, which was starting to emerge in Afghanistan. As a result, commanders were directed to carry out full risk assessments, and to run the assessments past the regional commanders, so that they could assess the risk levels involved at all the levels which we’re mentoring.”
A “brief pause” in partnered operations took place some areas while those risk assessments were being completed, Bradshaw said, but he added that normal operations rapidly resumed.
“The majority of people are carrying on operations as they were before these checks and these risk assessments took place,” he said. “There may have been some minor adjustments. But largely, as I say, we are totally back to normal.
“And indeed in many areas, mentoring really did not cease,” the general continued. “The risk assessments were carried out simultaneously with operations continuing, and there was really no interruption in operational activity.”
The British general said in terms of addressing the threat, ISAF has introduced some changes into the counterintelligence operations of the Afghan security forces.
“We're assisting them with some of this,” Bradshaw said. “They have adjusted the numbers of people who are involved in counterintelligence.”
The Afghan government’s national security function is working in closer counterintelligence cooperation with the Afghan security forces and ISAF partners, Bradshaw said. “So the whole process is a lot more joined up,” he added.
In the meantime, Bradshaw said, the Afghans have greatly improved their vetting procedures for new recruits. “They've also looked back at all of the people who have been vetted in the past, and carried out extensive re-checking to make sure that procedures have been properly carried out,” the general told reporters. “And we're also improving various aspects of our own training, with regard to working up close, alongside our Afghan partners.”
The British general also noted that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is “very much engaged in this effort,” and has decided to incorporate officers from the Afghan army’s Religious and Cultural Affairs Department to assist in training ISAF forces.
“We already do a great deal of cultural and language training for our troops before they come into theater,” Bradshaw said. “So, in a number of areas, we are improving procedures, and in this way we are driving the risks down for our troops.”
Bradshaw said coalition forces “are now more prepared” after evolving more efficient systems with their Afghan partners to identify risks.
“We believe that we are making the environment noticeably safer for our people as a result,” he added.