News - Afghanistan
The scaling back of Nato's involvement in joint operations with the Afghans was a decision made by the Afghans, spokesman for Afghan Ministry of Defence Gen. Zahir Azimi said Thursday.
Azimi said the aim was for Afghan military forces to get more experience operating on their own at the company level, while Nato's involvement at the platoon and corps level will remain as it was.
He said the decision would help prepare the Afghan forces for the pressure of maintaining all security on their own when the Nato-led foreign combat forces leave Afghanistan by 2014.
"If all the security responsibilities are handed over to the Afghan forces in 2014, we will definitely have more problems at that time. But if it starts gradually from company level to battalion and then to the corps level, it is both for our benefit and for the good of foreign forces," Azimi said in a press conference in Kabul.
Nato army commanders will be involved in company-level operation in emergency situations to provide any advice if needed for the Afghan commanders, the spokesman added.
Azimi's comments seem contrary to the widely reported Nato decision this week to limit its involvement in joint operations with Afghan forces below battalion level, a move to protect the foreign troops from possible "insider attacks" while the anger over an anti-Islamic film production continued to reverberate.
"In response to elevated threat levels resulting from the "Innocence of Muslims" video, Isaf has taken some prudent, but temporary, measures to reduce our profile and vulnerability to civil disturbances or insider attacks. This means that in some local instances, operational tempo has been reduced, or force protection has been increased," a Nato statement released Tuesday said.
Meanwhile, Afghan Ministry of Interior spokesman Sediq Sediqqi claimed at the same press briefing that the Haqqani Network was responsible for last week's attack on Nato base in Helmand province Camp Bastion.
"The fact is that the Haqqani and Al-Qaeda networks were behind this attack and they still have the ability to plan and launch group attacks, but as you know both Afghan and Isaf forces are still investigating the details of the attack," Sediqqi said, adding that the Haqqani, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are the major threats for Afghanistan.
He added that Afghan forces have launched major operations to remove insurgents from the eastern provinces, particularly along the border with Pakistan.
The attack on Camp Bastion, claimed by the Taliban, began late Friday night when 16 to 19 insurgents wearing military uniforms and equipped with modern guns and weapons breached the perimeter of the base. In the resulting clash, two US Marines and all but one of the insurgents died. Nato said there was also extensive damage to equipment worth about $180 million.