KABUL, Afghanistan — A potentially serious rift has emerged in the way the Afghan and U.S. governments view “insider” shootings, instances of Afghan police and soldiers turning their guns on Western troops.
Washington and NATO coalition officials have consistently said most of the shootings, which have claimed the lives of at least 10 U.S. service members this month alone, stem from personal disputes, stress, cultural differences and battle fatigue, with a small percentage of the assailants acting at the behest of the Taliban.
This week, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, visited Kabul for talks mainly centered on the shootings and how to work together to halt the growing phenomenon.
But late Wednesday, a day after Dempsey’s departure, Afghan President Hamid Karzai caught Western diplomatic and military officials by surprise when he asserted in a statement that infiltration of the Afghan security apparatus by “foreign spy agencies” was the driving force behind insider attacks, which have taken the lives of 40 coalition members this year.
Although Karzai did not specify whom he was accusing, it appeared he may have meant Pakistan’s premier spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, which he has often said is in league with insurgent groups in Afghanistan.
U.S. and other Western military officials have never singled out the ISI as the main culprit in insider attacks. On Thursday, U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen, the commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan, met Karzai at the presidential palace to try to clarify the Afghan leader’s stance.
Allen, later speaking via satellite link to reporters at the Pentagon, put a diplomatic face on the disagreement.
“I’m looking forward to Afghanistan providing us with the intelligence that permits them to come to that conclusion, so we can understand how they’ve drawn that conclusion and we can add that into our analysis,” he said.
Afghan officials routinely accuse Pakistan of inciting insurgent violence, and Karzai’s statement may have been intended primarily for domestic consumption.