US resumes joint operations with Afghan forces

Fresh off a trip to U.S. positions in southern Afghanistan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told reporters on Thursday that U.S. forces "resumed operations" with their Afghan colleagues. 

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Since Sept. 18, all joint combat operations had been suspended among American ground units in Afghanistan. 

Under orders from Gen. John Allen, head of all U.S. forces in Afghanistan, interaction between coalition and Afghan forces would take place only at the battalion level. 

Allen made the move, along with suspending American-led Afghan training missions, due to growing concern over "insider attacks" against U.S. troops by members of the Afghan National Security Forces. 

But within the units visited by Dempsey during his trip, Afghan and coalition forces were once again working shoulder to shoulder in the field. 

The four-star general could not say whether all U.S. units had resumed operations with the Afghans at the same level as those units he observed during the trip. 

"The campaign is always adapting ... [and] the relationship is always in flux," he said during the press briefing at the Pentagon. 

"This is a matter of gauging progress, gauging confidence, capability and making adjustments," he added. 

But when pressed as to whether U.S.-Afghan teams were back on the battlefield as they were before Allen issued his order, Dempsey replied: "Yes, as far as I know, sitting here in Washington, 8,000 miles away." 

Prior to Allen's order, Dempsey said the rising problem of insider attacks against U.S. and NATO troops was threatening to throw the White House's Afghan war plan off track. 

The Obama administration plans to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by 2014. However, that plan is predicated on Afghan military and police units being ready to shoulder the load for the country's security operations once American forces leave.

"You can't whitewash it. We can't convince ourselves that we just have to work harder to get through it. Something has to change," he said in an interview with the American Forces Press Service (AFPS). 

Part of the problem was that Afghan leaders, including president Hamid Karzai, were not paying enough attention to the issue. 

On Tuesday, the four-star general said the attitude in Kabul over inside attacks had changed significantly. 

"I can tell you without hesitation they are taking this as seriously as we are and taking active measures to help us and them defeat this threat," Dempsey said, referring to recent talks with his counterpart in the Afghan government. 

After those talks, Dempsey said there's a "renewed sense" that Afghan and coalition forces will be able to stem the tide of insider attacks and reach the administration's goal of pulling all American forces out of the country by 2014. 

To date, 51 allied troops, a majority of them American, have died at the hands of their Afghan counterparts. 

Most recently, Two U.S. Marines were killed and six U.S. Harrier fighter jets were lost during a brazen raid against Camp Bastion, the United Kingdom's largest military outpost in southern Afghanistan. 

The strike was reportedly carried out by Taliban gunmen disguised as U.S. Army soldiers, according to news reports.