Thursday, December 14, 2017

Afghanistan removes, detains soldiers after insider attacks

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan authorities have detained or removed hundreds of soldiers in an investigation into rising insider attacks against international service personnel who are their supposed partners in the fight against Taliban insurgents and other militants, officials said Wednesday.

The crackdown is the result of the Afghan Defense Ministry's effort to re-evaluate soldiers to stem the attacks, which are complicating plans to train Afghan forces so that most foreign troops can withdraw by the end of 2014. President Hamid Karzai's government hopes Afghan forces can take responsibility for security nationwide by that time.

The U.S. military is taking precautionary measures, too, and recently stopped training about 1,000 members of the Afghan Local Police, a controversial network of village-defense units. Karzai has expressed concern that the program could end up arming local troublemakers, strongmen or criminals.

So far this year, 45 international service members, most of them Americans, have died at the hands of Afghan soldiers or policemen or insurgents wearing their uniforms.

There were at least 12 such attacks in August alone, resulting in 15 deaths.

While not specifying how many Afghan National Army soldiers were removed or how many were detained, Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi said many were dismissed because they submitted incomplete or forged documents. He said some were suspected of having had contacts with militants.

Also Wednesday, a U.S. Army OH-58 scout helicopter crashed in the Pul-e Alam district of Logar province in eastern Afghanistan, killing two U.S. soldiers, according to a Pentagon official. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

U.S. to hold part of Afghan prison: The U.S. military will maintain control over a cluster of foreign detainees and new ones captured in Afghanistan, even as the two countries prepare to ceremonially turn over detention operations to Afghan control at President Hamid Karzai's demand, the New York Times reported Wednesday that Afghan and U.S. officials say.

The persistence of U.S.-run holding cells in a section of the main Parwan prison complex underscores the complexity of relinquishing control while U.S. troops are still in the field conducting raids and making arrests, including the risk that detainees could be freed only to come back and stage attacks.

Some of the difficulties echo problems that have slowed the Obama administration's efforts to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It is illegal to repatriate prisoners to countries where they are likely to be tortured or killed, for example, and U.S. officials also want to ensure that other governments will keep tabs on former detainees.

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