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Hunter seeks review of Afghan insider attacks

Aug. 20, 2012 - 04:03PM   |   Last Updated: Aug. 20, 2012 - 04:03PM  |  
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A California lawmaker who served in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine Corps officer wants the House Armed Services Committee to take a closer look at the growing number of so-called "green-on-blue" incidents in which insurgents posing as Afghan troops or policemen are launching insider attacks against U.S. and coalition troops, as well as genuine Afghan security forces.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., a member of the armed services committee, is asking at a minimum for a Pentagon briefing for lawmakers about the impact of the insurgent attacks on mission safety, combat effectiveness and cooperation between the U.S. and Afghanistan forces.

Hunter also wants the committee to hold a hearing on the issue, although that is unlikely to happen until September while Congress takes a break for the Republican and Democratic national conventions.

In a letter to the armed services committee chairman, Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., Hunter says at least 32 insider attacks have occurred in 2012, resulting in 13 percent of all combat-related deaths.

The threat isn't new, he said, but "the growing frequency of these attacks is alarming."

McKeon spokesman Claude Chafin acknowledged that the attacks constitute a "troubling trend." Chafin noted that the armed services committee held two hearings on this issue already and could hold more. Additionally, the committee's oversight and investigations panel held a series of hearings to review the Afghan security forces.

"While the Committee has not announced our hearing schedule for the fall, this is an issue that has commanded significant attention this year." Chafin said. "None of this should be considered the final word on this troubling trend, but part our ongoing effort to help manage the risks our war fighters face in Afghanistan."

Congress does not return to work from its summer break until Sept. 10.

"These incidents are not isolated, but rather part of a larger strategy to target unsuspecting service members and, in come cases, gain access to facilities and information," said Hunter, who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.

"The attacks are building distrust between coalition forces and their Afghan counterparts, and the threat of similar attacks will only serve to undermine the U.S.-Afghan partnership that is necessary for a stable and effective transition," he said in the letter.

"While we cannot completely eliminate this threat, I am confident that strengthening certain protections for U.S. troops and insisting on a more thorough vetting process and stricter standards for Afghan forces will allow service members to better manage this threat, in particular."

McKeon has been pushing for improvements in the vetting process for Afghan locals who are either part of local security forces or have access for other reasons to the facilities used by U.S. forces.

McKeon-sponsored legislation has passed the House as part of the 2013 defense authorization bill but has been left in limbo because the Senate has been unable to take up and pass its version of the bill.

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