ISLAMABAD — NATO civilian and military officials said that by the middle of 2013, Afghanistan’s national security forces will be leading security operations throughout the country. They also have dismissed suggestions that so-called “green-on-blue” attacks could undermine the 2014 drawdown plan.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance force, or ISAF, began the gradual transfer of security responsibility to Afghan national forces nearly two years ago, and it plans to complete the process by the end of 2014, when all foreign combat troops will have withdrawn from Afghanistan.
The spokesman for the foreign military alliance, Brigadier-General Gunter Katz, told reporters in Kabul Tuesday that the transition process is moving ahead successfully. He said Afghan security forces are currently leading over 80 percent of all security operations in 23 of the country’s 34 provinces.
“ISAF continues the transition of responsibility to the Afghan forces and in 2013, a hundred percent of this country will be in the transition process,” said Katz.
The ISAF spokesman again dismissed reports that Afghan national forces will not be able to deal with the Taliban insurgency once U.S. and NATO troops officially end their combat operations at the end of 2014.
He said that the quality and sustainability of the Afghan forces continue to increase, and that they have “successfully” fought insurgents in areas where they are leading security operations.
“What we see is that all the districts that are in the transition process already gained security and the fighting is decreasing, and the security situation is becoming more and more stable,” he said.
The spokesman also confirmed Monday’s incident at a military base in southern Helmand province, in which a suspected member of the Afghan National Army shot dead a British soldier and wounded several others.
“The shooter, who actually turned his weapon against members of the Afghan national army and ISAF, was shot during the incident,” Katz added.
The number of such incidents, referred to as “green-on-blue” attacks, spiked in 2012. NATO says that 45 such attacks took place in that year, killing at least 61 of its personnel, most of them American soldiers.
Taliban militants claim their fighters have infiltrated the Afghan army and police to carry out these attacks. NATO officials dismiss these claims, but at the same time acknowledge a majority of the “insider attacks” could have links to the insurgency.
The incidents are believed to have seriously undermined trust between Afghan forces and their foreign counterparts. But NATO officials say they do not threaten the 2014 drawdown plans.
Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is set to meet President Barack Obama in Washington on Friday. They will discuss the long-term security agreement between the two countries meant to allow some U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan after 2014.
But insurgent groups, including the Hizb-e-Islami faction led by fugitive Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, are opposed to the presence of foreign forces after 2014.
Ghairat Baheer, who has represented the group in several rounds of recent peace talks, again rejected any U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.
“The presence of foreign troops under any banner, under any pretext, will not be acceptable to Afghans," he said. "If America wants to stay in Afghanistan, they should accept that it will be the continuation of war in Afghanistan.”
Karzai’s government is trying to engage the Taliban, Hizb-e-Islami and other insurgent groups in talks to persuade them to end the violence and join the political reconciliation process to facilitate an orderly withdrawal of the NATO forces.
But Baheer, a son-in-law of Hekmatyar, insists that the reconciliation efforts will not succeed unless all foreign forces pull out of Afghanistan by 2014.