US suspends training of Afghan police amid spike in insider attacks

U.S. forces in Afghanistan on Sunday announced they would suspend training new recruits to the Afghan Local Police (ALP) amid a spike in “insider” attacks targeting American and NATO personnel.

U.S. Forces-Afghanistan said it would temporarily halt the training of 1,000 new Afghan ALP recruits and focus attention on vetting those in the 16,000-plus force to identify possible Taliban sympathizers or those likely to attack coalition troops.

“Special Operations remains fully committed to a close and productive relationship with our Afghan partners,” said Col. Thomas Collins, U.S. forces spokesman, in a statement. “Current partnered operations have and will continue, even as we temporarily suspend training of about 1,000 new ALP recruits while re-vetting current members.”

“While we have full trust and confidence in our Afghan partners, we believe this is a necessary step to validate our vetting process and ensure the quality indicative of Afghan Local Police,” he added. 

British Lt. Gen Adrian Bradshaw, Deputy Commander of the ISAF stressed the measure was only temporary and that there was “no other operational impact for Afghan police and other security forces.”

“Effective ALP operations are continuing to deliver significant results against the insurgency and that the working relationships between ALP, U.S. and other Coalition partners continue to be strong,” said Bradshaw in a statement. He “expressed confidence” that Afghan security forces would be “more than capable of taking over full responsibility for Afghanistan’s security in 2014.”

Reports say at least 45 NATO soldiers have been killed by Afghan counterparts in “green-on-blue” attacks this year. 

The attacks have sparked concern at the highest levels of the Pentagon and White House. 

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called Afghan President Hamid Karzai last month to press Kabul to take steps better identify potential attackers in the Afghan military and police. 

Obama last month addressed the attacks, saying that handing control of security to Afghans would help cut down on the number of incidents. 

"In the long-term, we will see fewer U.S. casualties and coalition casualties by sticking to our transition plan and making sure that we have the most effective Afghan security force possible, but we have to do it in a way that doesn't leave our guys vulnerable," Obama told reporters at a press briefing at the White House.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Pete King (R-N.Y.) has called the attacks a “growing crisis” and pressed the administration to investigate.

The Pentagon last month said they would increase intelligence operations in Afghanistan to better identify those who may already have infiltrated local forces and would adopt heightened screening procedures for new recruits.

Gen. John Allen, commander of all U.S. forces in Afghanistan, has also ordered all American troops to be armed at all times, even within military bases, as a way to protect against future insider attacks.  

Most of the troops killed in the attacks have been American servicemembers, but last week three Australian soldiers were killed when a man in an Afghan army uniform opened fire at close range. 

An attack earlier this year which claimed the lives of four French troops prompted French President François Hollande to accelerate plans to withdraw French forces from Afghanistan. 

The U.S. plans to hand over all security operations to Afghan nationals and pull American forces out of the country in 2014. The attacks, though, have raised concerns about the capabilities of Afghan security forces. 

The Pentagon and White House however say they will stick to the U.S. timetable and are committed to preparing Afghan forces for shouldering the security burden after their departure.

Jeremy Herb and Carlo Munoz contributed.

This story was updated at 1:15 p.m.