NATO made the right decision in scaling back joint patrols with Afghan forces given the rising number of insider attacks on coalition troops.
The American-led coalition is responding to a wave of shootings that have resulted in the killing of 51 Western troops this year by Afghan military and police members. There are also concerns about increasing violence against foreign troops by Afghans angry over an anti-Muslim film insulting Islams founder, Muhammad. The green on blue killings have been responsible for about 15 percent of coalition fatalities this year.
Joint military operations have been part of the U.S. exit strategy to prepare Afghan forces to take over security responsibilities as the United States moves toward withdrawal of troops by the end of 2014. Until now, lower level officers such as captains and lieutenants have been able to approve the joint ground operations.
Under the directive, the Associated Press reported, the patrols will require approval from a two-star general. It will also limit contacts between coalition and Afghan troops living on shared outposts. The directive will not change relations at higher command levels, such as battalion and brigade headquarters. American and NATO forces will continue to provide air cover, artillery support or assist in airlifting wounded Afghans. But it is in the day-to-day operations at the lower levels where U.S. troops can be seen working side-by-side that can be most effective in countering anti-American sentiment and building trust with villagers.
However, Lt. Col. Thomas Collins, a spokesman for NATOs International Security Assistance Force, called the move a prudent and temporary step in a time of heightened tensions.
These moves should not derail plans for U.S. troops to withdraw as planned.