By Meghashyam Mali - 08/19/12 11:56 AM EDT
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta called Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday to press Kabul to take more steps to stop the recent spate of attacks by local forces on their U.S. and NATO counterparts.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said Panetta called on Karzai to take further steps to identify potential attackers within the Afghan military and police.
"Secretary Panetta thanked President Karzai for his recent statements condemning such attacks. They expressed shared concern over this issue and agreed that American and Afghan officials should work even more closely together to minimize the potential for insider attacks in the future," Little said.
Among the steps recommended by Panetta was to enact “even more rigorous vetting of Afghan recruits, and stepped up engagement with village elders, who often play a key role by vouching for Afghan security personnel,” Little added.
Panetta’s call came a day after two U.S. servicemen were shot to death by a local recruit to the Afghan police force in Western Afghanistan.
Their deaths brought to 11 the number of American soldiers killed by Afghan police or soldiers in the past two weeks.
On Friday, Gen. John Allen, commander of all U.S. forces in Afghanistan, ordered all American troops to be armed at all times, even within U.S. or coalition bases, as a way to protect themselves against further insider attacks.
Reports said that U.S. forces will carry weapons even in formerly secured areas including the U.S. headquarters in Kabul and Afghan government offices.
The Pentagon has said they will increase counterintelligence operations in Afghanistan to better identify Taliban operatives who have already infiltrated the ranks of Afghan forces.
Military officials also say they will use heightened screening procedures to weed out possible threats among new Afghan recruits.
Panetta, earlier this month, said the increased attacks on American troops demonstrated the lengths to which Taliban forces would go to disrupt progress in the country.
The attacks have also raised concerns about the capabilities of Afghan security forces. The Defense Department plans to hand over all security operations to Afghan nationals and pull American forces out of the country in 2014.
Panetta has said that the attacks would not alter the U.S. timetable and that coalition forces are committed to training their Afghan counterparts.
"Our forces continue to partner closely in the field, and they have not let these incidents disrupt those operations,” Panetta said last week.
Carlo Muñoz contributed.
This story was updated at 10:20 a.m.