Recent attacks on US forces spark Pentagon concern over Afghan recruits

The Pentagon is looking to improve how it vets incoming Afghan soldiers and police after a recent spate of shootings where local forces turned their guns on U.S. and coalition troops.

While there are no plans to increase U.S. oversight of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), the Defense Department is taking steps to improve how prospective Afghan military or police candidates are screened, DOD spokesman George Little said on Monday.

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"The focus has been on improving the [ANSF] vetting process, and it has improved," Little told reporters at the Pentagon. "[But] there are some bad apples, regrettably."

A new screening process for vetting candidates for the ANSF has been in place since March, Gen. John Allen, head of all U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said.

Military officials have been zeroing in on certain personality traits or characteristics that could make a recruit susceptible to being tapped by the Taliban or other terror groups, Allen said at the time.

Coalition leaders are also leaning on local leaders to weigh in on potential military recruits drawn from the various villages and hamlets in the Afghan countryside.

These local elders help to “ferret out” questionable candidates, based on their extensive and sometimes lifelong relationships with the young recruits, the four-star general said.

However, Allen admitted such efforts cannot predict whether an Afghan soldier will turn on his coalition advisers.

And instances of these "green-on-blue" attacks have spiked recently, just as U.S. forces are preparing to withdraw en masse from Afghanistan.

On Monday, an Afghan police officer opened fire on NATO troops stationed in the Nangahar province in eastern Afghanistan.

No coalition forces were killed in the attack, but local Taliban leaders did take credit for the shooting, according to recent news reports.

Two days earlier, six U.S. and coalition soldiers were killed by members of the Taliban in two separate incidents in southern Afghanistan.

Three coalition troops were gunned down by an Afghan police officer in the Garmsir district of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan on Saturday.

Hours before that shooting, three U.S. soldiers were shot and killed in the Sangin district by a man dressed in an Afghan army uniform, according to news reports.

Those shootings came a day after three members of Marine Corps Special Operations Command were killed by a local Afghan commander in the village of Mosa Qala.

The troops were invited to a dinner by the Afghan commander and members of the local Afghan police force in Mosa Qala. After the meal, the commander opened fire, killing three and wounding one.

"You can never take the risk down to zero in a war zone," Little said of the recent surge in this type of attack.

That said, there are no plans to adjust the handover of critical security operations to Afghan military or police units ahead of the American troop withdrawal, according to Little.

"There has been no change in our strategy," he said. The shootings, he added, did not represent the "hundreds of thousands" of Afghan nationals who assist U.S. and coalition forces each day.