White House says suspended ops won’t derail Afghan timeline

The White House said Tuesday that the suspension of most joint operations between NATO and Afghan forces would not derail the planned security transition to the Afghans in 2014.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also emphasized that the suspension would not change NATO’s overall strategy on Tuesday as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said it was scaling back combat patrols and joint missions in an attempt to curb a growing number of attacks on coalition forces by Afghan security.

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White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday that the new directive changes partnering and advising to be at the battalion level and above. But he said that did not mean there wouldn’t be partnering below that level, saying it would be evaluated on a “case-by-case basis.”

“It doesn’t affect the timeline,” Carney said. “The transition that the president has laid out will absolutely continue.”

The number of “insider,” or “green-on-blue” attacks has continued to grow this year, particularly in the past two months. There have been 51 troops, most of them American, killed this year, compared to 35 in 2011 and 34 from 2007-2010.

The suspension of joint operations raises new questions about the viability of NATO’s exit strategy, which calls for ISAF troops to train their Afghan partners so Afghan security forces can take control of security operations by the end of 2014.

Carney said there was “no question” the steps being taken reflect the serious concerns about the attacks. 

"The issue here is partnering with our Afghan security forces. That's what [ISAF] Gen. [John] Allen was addressing and ISAF was addressing," Carney said. "And part of this process obviously is training up Afghan security forces so that they are in a position to capably take over responsibility for their own security. That partnering continues with the changes in directives that I just talked about."

When asked about the temporary nature of the suspension, Carney said the time frame would be based “on the judgments made by commanders in the field as well as officials at the Pentagon.”

Fogh Rasmussen described the suspension on Tuesday as “prudent and necessary,” saying the measures were being taken to reduce the risk to ISAF troops, according to The Associated Press.

"Let me be clear, we remain committed to our strategy and we remain committed to our goal of seeing the Afghans fully in charge of their own security by the end of 2014," he said. "The goal is unchanged, the strategy remains the same, and the timeline remains the same."

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