By Carlo Munoz - 07/07/12 10:00 AM EDT
The Defense Department has decided to siphon off $1 billion from Pentagon accounts dedicated to building up Afghanistan's national security forces and shift those dollars to other military priorities.
The move was included in a Pentagon request that was sent to Capitol Hill to shift roughly $8 billion across various service and departmental accounts. Congressional lawmakers were sent copies of the so-called reprogramming request on June 30.
Despite the drop, U.S. military leaders assured lawmakers that the $2.3 billion now set aside to support the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) "will still leave adequate funding to provide full support" to the country's military and police forces, DOD officials say.
A portion of that money taken from ANSF support accounts will be used to outfit the Navy's fleet of unmanned aerial drones with weapons, according to the reprogramming notice.
The Pentagon will shift an additional $8 million into Navy accounts to weaponize the service's arsenal of Shadow aerial drones. The armed Shadows will help Marine Corps units on the ground in Afghanistan track and kill "rapidly … fleeting targets," according to DOD.
Specifically, the armed Navy drones will be used to take out small teams of Afghan insurgents who plant roadside bombs on routes used by American and coalition forces.
The $1 billion reduction comes at a time when American and coalition commanders are beginning to transition the bulk of security operations in Afghanistan to local forces.
In April, Washington and Kabul finalized a deal to give Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government full oversight of night raids launched by American and Afghan special forces.
That same month, American commanders officially transitioned control of all terror detainee operations in the country to the ANSF. The deal, finalized on April 2, included transferring control of the massive Parwan detention facility at Bagram Air Force base to Kabul.
The deals were a critical step toward the goal of transitioning all military operations under Kabul's control by 2014, when U.S. troops are scheduled to be out of the country.
Despite marked progress by the ANSF, American military commanders on the ground are still coping with troop desertions from Afghan units and growing instances of so-called "blue-on-green" violence.
In 2012, there have been 19 attacks where Afghan troops turned their weapons on U.S. and coalition advisers, resulting in the death of 13 American troops, DOD spokesman Capt. John Kirby said Thursday.
On Tuesday, an individual dressed in an ANSF uniform opened fire on Afghan troops at a military installation in Wardak province in Eastern Afghanistan.
"It's a very difficult problem to get your hands around," Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon. "You can't always know, and, in fact, in most cases, you don't know what motivated it."
There have been more than 40 such attacks since 2007, the Pentagon told Congress at a hearing in February, although the department said the majority were the result of “personal” issues, not infiltration by insurgent groups.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in March that the incidents were “sporadic” and did not represent a pattern of any kind.