Recent attacks by Afghan security personnel on U.S. and NATO forces show Washington should speed plans to remove its troops from the war-torn southeast Asian nation, says a prominent House Democrat.
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the House Armed Services Committee’s top Democrat, made that call on Wednesday, saying in a statement that “friction” between U.S. troops and their Afghans counterparts is unavoidable.
“No people would be happy with 100,000 foreign troops carrying out combat operations in their country,” Smith said, “and removing this friction is one reason why I believe we should look for ways to accelerate the transition of responsibility for security and governance to the Afghan people and redeploy U.S. personnel from Afghanistan as soon as we responsibly can.”
More than 30 times this year, individuals donning Afghan security uniforms have attacked U.S. or NATO forces. With still four months to go in 2012, that already is larger than the number of so-called “insider attacks” in all of 2011. The Pentagon calls the incidents “insider attacks.”
Pentagon officials have said there is little evidence to suggest the string of attacks shows the Taliban has infiltrated the ranks of Afghanistan’s security forces.
But in his statement, Smith bluntly concludes that some “were the result of Taliban infiltration or coercion.”
What’s more, others were the result of “cultural friction” that is “almost unavoidable,” Smith said.
In response, NATO and American commanders have set up new programs designed to bring down those figures. One such effort calls for U.S. troops to monitor Afghan forces, and to take down suspected attackers. A second directs U.S. troops to keep a live round chambered at all times.
The Afghanistan war has remained a back-burner issue during the 2012 presidential election. But as lawmakers return to Washington next week after more than a month at home, they have no doubt heard from constituents in all 50 states that want to end the nearly 11-year-old conflict.
Many hawkish congressional Republicans want to reverse President Barack Obama’s plans to remove more U.S. troops this year, and most American forces by the end of 2014. But more and more Democrats such as Smith favor ending the war and using those monies elsewhere.
“Our brave men and women in uniform have fought and died in Afghanistan for the last 10 years, and their sacrifices have brought real progress,” Smith said. “We thank them for their efforts and their sacrifice. But after  years of war, and great cost to both the American and Afghan people, it is time to find additional ways to put the Afghans in charge of their own fate as quickly as we responsibly can and bring our troops home.”