The NATO chiefs of defense had a good discussion on events in Afghanistan and alliance plans in the region, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sept. 16.
Dempsey spoke aboard a C-40 aircraft taking him from Sibiu, Romania – where the NATO Military Committee met – to Ankara, Turkey.
The meeting was the first for the chiefs of defense since the Chicago Summit where alliance heads of state approved the NATO Strategic Plan for Afghanistan. The plan includes how the alliance will remain engaged in the country post-December 2014, when the NATO International Security Assistance Force mission ends.
ISAF commander Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen briefed the chiefs via video-teleconference. “He briefed on the campaign as well as his thinking of the timing of future decisions on things like the enduring presence and the rate at which the [NATO] forces will decline,” Dempsey said.
“This meeting was to validate the way ahead for the decisions to be made,” he said. Each nation will review its commitments, and the political leaders will decide how best to move forward.
It is important to note that the United States is not yet finished recovering the surge forces, which will happen by the end of this month. At that point, Allen will present his semi-annual campaign review.
“After the review and following the decisions made in Chicago, the analysis will be brought forward,” Dempsey said. “Sometime by the end of the year, I would expect, we would begin to have an idea of what our post-2014 presence [in Afghanistan] will be.”
With that information, Allen said he can make plans to get from 68,000 U.S. forces to the number needed on January 1, 2015.
The chiefs also discussed insider attacks – where Afghan security forces, or those disguised as security forces, fire on coalition troops. There was another instance of that yesterday when a member of the Afghan Local Police allegedly killed two British soldiers.
“We’re all seized with [the insider attack] problem,” Dempsey said. “You can’t whitewash it. We can’t convince ourselves that we just have to work harder to get through it. Something has to change.”
Commanders in Afghanistan are doing all they can to reduce the problem – vetting, counterintelligence agents in the force, a guardian angel program or changing the posture of the force.
“But we’ve got to make sure our Afghan counterparts are as seized about it as we are,” Dempsey said. “We have to get on top of this. It is a very serious threat to the campaign.”
The attack on Camp Bastion in Helmand province was not an example of an insider attack, Dempsey said.
“We pulled the intelligence string – we and the Brits – and the initial assessment is that it was a breach of the perimeter and there is no indication at this point that it was aided by anyone inside,” he said. “It’s really too soon to tell. We certainly need to continue to examine that.”