Afghan Spies Searching For Comrades Who Might Kill NATO Troops

After a spate of killings of U.S. and NATO forces, Afghan spies are on the look out for would-be killers.


Military spies quietly have been inserted into Afghan units to pinpoint fellow soldiers who plan to kill U.S. and Western forces, a brash move aimed at salving wounds in the increasingly ailing NATO-Kabul relationship.

Afghan military leaders have embedded some of their "counterintelligence operatives" in Afghan National Army battalions to conduct "rigorous counterintelligence operations" on their comrades, said British Army Lt. Gen. Adrian Bradshaw, deputy commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan.

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"Our colleagues in the Afghan National Army and Police, have really seized this issue and are out to root out this problem with great determination," Bradshaw said during a video press conference from Kabul. "The [Afghan] commanders are taking great note of where their people go on leave, whether their families have come under pressure."

More specifically, the counterintel personnel are keenly watching for signs of "potential complicity with the enemy," Bradshaw said.

One Afghan military official, for instance, has instructed his commanders to keep track of their charges' "possible linkages with insurgents [and] if people have come under pressure when they go on leave, that sort of thing."

If Afghan leaders come to have doubts about any soldier, policeman or recruit, those individuals are now "asked to leave the service," the British general said.

Afghan officials also have put in place stricter vetting procedures for individuals trying to join the war-torn nation's nascent military and police forces, Bradshaw said.

Those moves come as nearly 20 U.S. and NATO forces have been killed by Afghan troops or impersonators so far this year.

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The killings have further opened wounds in the delicate relationships between Washington and Kabul, as well as Washington and key allies like France, which ordered an early withdrawal from Afghanistan after a number of its troops were killed in so called "green-on-blue" incidents.

If French troops are removed, the Obama administration's Afghanistan strategy is under pressure of collapsing, said one former senior Pentagon official.

"The problem is the president, since he has come into office, has given every signal he wants to terminate our involvement in Afghanistan as soon as possible," says the former senior official. "So every ally is going to start making their own calculation about their involvement."

John T. Bennett covers national security and foreign policy for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact him at or follow him on Twitter @BennettJohnT.

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