Cutback ordered in U.S.-Afghan joint ops

Sept. 18, 2012 at 2:14 PM
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KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- The NATO commander in Afghanistan has ordered cutbacks in U.S. troops' joint operations with Afghan military and police forces in reaction to "insider attacks."

The order from U.S. Gen. John R. Allen resulted from commanders' conclusion that the attacks have undermined U.S. trust in local Afghan allies, as well as concerns that U.S. troops are increasingly exposed to the possibility of attacks associated with Muslim anger over an anti-Islam video, The Washington Post reported.

A suicide bomber killed 14 people in Kabul Tuesday, bringing to 28 the number of deaths officials link to unrest over the video.

In Egypt, a post on militants' websites said a cleric issued a fatwa, or religious pronouncement, calling for the killing of anyone involved in the video debasing the prophet Mohammad, which was produced in the United States, The New York Times reported.

The deaths in Kabul were the first in the country tied to the "Innocence of Muslims" video, authorities said. Officials have cracked down on attempted demonstrations, and blocked Internet access to Google products, including YouTube, where the video was posted.

A suicide bomber crashed an explosives-laden car into a minibus apparently carrying foreign workers Tuesday morning, killing all 12 people in the minibus and two people on the road, police said.

The Afghan insurgent group Hezb-e-Islami claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in retaliation for the video.

"We claim credit for the attack by a martyrdom-seeking mujahid, an 18-year-old girl named Fatima, from Kabul, and the attack has been conducted in response to the film insulting the Prophet Muhammad and Islam," Hezb-e-Islami spokesman Zubir Siddiqi told the Times by telephone.

The nationalities of the foreigners weren't immediately known, but French soldiers were seen at the blast site, witnesses said. The Times said it seemed the victims were Westerners based on their clothing.

Access to YouTube also was blocked in Pakistan and other Muslim countries.

Officials said at least 28 people have been killed in six countries as a result of the video, the Times said.

The violence began Sept. 11 with an organized attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three staff members. Subsequent protests at Western embassies claimed one life in Egypt, one in Lebanon, three in Tunisia and five in Yemen.

SITE Intelligence Group, an agency that monitors militants' Internet postings, reported Monday Egyptian Salafist cleric Ahmad Ashoush issued a fatwa, saying "the killing of the director, producer, actors and everyone else involved in the film is mandatory."

International Security Assistance Force forces are committed to partnering with and training Afghan security forces, despite what had been reported recently, the ISAF said Tuesday.

"In response to elevated threat levels resulting from the 'Innocence of Muslims' video, the ISAF has taken some prudent, but temporary, measures to reduce our profile and vulnerability to civil disturbances or insider attacks," the ISAF said in a release. "This means that in some local instances, operational tempo has been reduced, or force protection has been increased."

NBC News, citing a senior military official, first reported the suspension of joint military operations between the United States and Afghanistan Monday after an insider attack killed four Americans.

"We're to the point now where we can't trust these people," the military official said. "It's had a major impact on our ability to conduct combat operations with them, and we're going to have to back off to a certain degree."

The orders are a departure from the longstanding U.S. strategy to prepare Afghan forces to assume responsibility for the nation's security after U.S. troops withdraw in 2012, the Post said.

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