By Jeremy Herb - 08/21/12 01:26 PM EDT
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Pete King (R-N.Y.) has called on the Obama administration to investigate attacks by Afghan soldiers and policemen against U.S. troops.
Calling it a "growing crisis," King sent letters Tuesday to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, saying that the 40 "green-on-blue," or “insider” attacks, that have occurred this year show there are likely “serious vetting problems, including Taliban penetration of the Afghan security forces.”
King said that he attended a funeral of a constituent, Lance Cpl. Greg Buckley Jr., who was one of the 11 U.S. service members killed in the past two weeks by Afghans in military or police uniforms.
King's committee and the Senate Homeland Security Committee held a hearing last year on threats against the military, and the House Armed Services Committee held one earlier this year specifically looking at green-on-blue attacks.
Armed Services Committee member Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) wrote a letter to Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) on Monday asking him to hold additional hearings on the issue.
Committee spokesman Claude Chafin said that the committee hasn't announced its fall hearing schedule yet, but has held two hearings specifically on green-on-blue attacks this year, including one that looked at the case of a constituent of McKeon's who was killed by an Afghan working for a private security contractor.
At that February Armed Services hearing, Pentagon officials said that most of the Afghans who attack friendly U.S. and NATO troops had personal issues, and few were infiltrations by the Taliban.
But the recent uptick has raised questions about how much involvement the Taliban has in the attacks.
“These incidents are not isolated, but rather part of a larger strategy to target unsuspecting service members and, in some cases, gain access to facilities and information,” Hunter wrote.
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan last week ordered troops to be armed at all times while on bases, as a step to counteract potential attacks by Afghan forces. Panetta also called Afghan President Hamid Karzai this weekend to discuss the issue.
King asked Panetta to aid in an investigation by providing full details of the green-on-blue attacks and how they were carried out.
“We cannot address this growing crisis for our mission in Afghanistan unless we first understand how many such incidents have taken place, who has perpetrated them and which coalition units have suffered these attacks, and under what circumstances,” King wrote.