Battered NATO Considering Early Afghanistan Withdrawal
NATO could pull its forces from Afghanistan before its planned withdrawal date of 2014. Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also conceded that intensifying green-on-blue attacks could be a premeditated Taliban ploy.
“From now until the end of 2014 we will see announcements of redeployments, withdrawals or drawdown,” Rasmussen told The Guardian. “If the security situation allows, I would not exclude the possibility that in certain areas you could accelerate the process.”
There are currently 120,000 NATO troops in the country training a local force three times this size.
But Rasmussen admitted that the transition is hindered by a stream of so-called green-on-blue attacks, where local trainees turn on their mentors, often unexpectedly and with deadly result. Nearly 50 NATO troops have been killed in such incidents so far this year.
“There’s no doubt insider attacks have undermined trust and confidence,” said Rasmussen, who left his post as Prime Minister of Denmark in 2009 to take the top NATO job.
Previously, NATO claimed the majority of such attacks were isolated incidents driven by petty conflicts and personal grudges, but Rasmussen admitted the situation is more complex.
“It’s safe to say that a significant part of the insider attacks are due to Taliban tactics – probably it is part of a Taliban strategy.”
He also claimed that not all infiltrations are as intricately planned as they may seem.
“We have seen where the militants were in Afghan uniforms, though they are not members of the Afghan security force.”
Rasmussen says the ultraconservative Islamist organization hopes to force a drop in public support for NATO’s Afghanistan mission with a constant drip of negative publicity.
Despite the morale-draining attacks and the continuing failure to establish control over the entirety of the mountainous country, Rasmussen asserted that any withdrawal would not be “a race for the exits,” and would only happen once the transition is secure.
“Political decisions will be taken based on … recommendations as to how we will adapt to the transfer of lead responsibility to the Afghans,” he promised. “The pace will very much depend on the security situation on the ground.”