Joint chiefs chairman in Afghanistan amid worries over 'insider' attacks

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey traveled to Afghanistan to meet with senior U.S. and Afghan military leaders on Monday amid increased worries over Afghan “insider” attacks on NATO forces.

The latest attack came Sunday, when a man in an Afghan police uniform shot and killed a U.S. service member in southern Afghanistan, according to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

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“Green-on-blue” attacks, or “insider threats,” as Pentagon officials suggested they be re-named last week, have spiked in recent weeks, complicating U.S. efforts to hand off security control to Afghan forces. Sunday’s incident marked the 10th time an American soldier has been killed by an Afghan soldier or police officer in the last two weeks, according to The Associated Press. In 2012, more than 30 U.S. soldiers have been killed in such attacks.

U.S. forces in Afghanistan are to be armed at all times in order to try to stem the attacks, under an order issued last week by the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. George Allen. 

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Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday to discuss the attacks, urging “even more vigorous vetting of Afghan recruits, and stepped up engagement with village elders,” according to Pentagon spokesman George Little.

Dempsey told reporters during his flight to Afghanistan that the insider attacks would be a focus of his meetings in Afghanistan, and he suggested that the Afghan government could be doing more to stop the attacks, according to Agence France-Presse.

"I do think the more they can be as concerned about it as we are, the better off we'll all be," Dempsey said, according to AFP.

NATO officials say a majority of the attacks by Afghan soldiers and police officers are not infiltrations by the Taliban, but rather personal issues the soldiers and police officers have.

Still, Panetta acknowledged the Taliban is playing a role when he discussed the attacks at a press briefing last week.

“One of the reasons the Taliban is targeting in this manner, we believe, is the success that our Afghan partners are having on the battlefield,” Panetta said. “The reality is, the Taliban has not been able to regain any territory lost, and so they're resorting to these kinds of attacks to create havoc. And there's no question it's of concern. It's dangerous. And we've got to do everything we can do to try to prevent it.”