By Carlo Muñoz - 09/17/12 05:47 PM EDT
The U.S. military's top officer acknowledged this week that rampant "insider" attacks by Afghan forces on their American and NATO allies pose a "very serious threat" to the U.S. war effort, which could play havoc with the White House's plan to leave the country in the next two years.
In an interview with the American Forces Press Service (AFPS), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said the growing problem of Afghan military and police forces turning their guns on American soldiers cannot be tolerated any longer.
The Obama administration plans to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by 2014. However, that plan is predicated Afghan military and police units being to shoulder the load for the country's security operations once American forces leave.
In March, Gen. John Allen, head of all U.S. forces in Afghanistan, characterized the insider attacks against coalition troops as a fact of life on the ground in the country.
But over the past few months, attacks by either disgruntled Afghan recruits or Taliban infiltrators in the country's security forces against U.S. troops have decimated morale among American forces and cast doubt on the White House's war plans.
To date, 51 allied troops, a majority of them American, have died at the hands of their Afghan counterparts.
Most recently, two British soldiers were killed by an Afghan policeman in the southern province of Helmand on Saturday, and four American troops were killed in a similar attack Sunday in Zabul province, according to reports by The Associated Press.
Saturday's daring suicide attack against Camp Bastion, the United Kingdom's largest military outpost in southern Afghanistan, was carried out by Taliban gunmen disguised as U.S. soldiers, according to recent reports.
Two U.S. Marines were also killed in Saturday's attack, and six U.S. Harrier fighter jets were destroyed in the strike.
While Dempsey pointed out that the Camp Bastion raid was not an insider attack, he said the issue is one that Afghan leaders — including President Hamid Karzai — need to begin taking very seriously as well.
"But we've got to make sure our Afghan counterparts are as seized about it as we are," Dempsey said. "We have to get on top of this. It is a very serious threat to the campaign."
The four-star general hammered that point home during a meeting with NATO counterparts in Romania earlier this month.
The meeting focused on the overall U.S. withdrawal strategy, including ways to mitigate the insider threat in the run-up to the administration's 2014 deadline.