, May 20, 2012

Report: Taliban, Afghan troops forge agreements as NATO prepares draw-down

Members of the Afghan army are forging secret alliances with the Taliban, threatening to undermine the ability of Afghan authorities to maintain control just as NATO troops prepare to hand over power to the country's security forces, Britain's Sunday Times reported.

In Ghazni province an hour from capital Kabul, Afghan army lieutenant Mohammad Wali admitted to the newspaper that he and a local Taliban commander were working together. (The Sunday Times operates behind a paywall)

"We lost seven men in an ambush when I first arrived at the base," Wali, who commands 18 men, told The Times. "So I thought, why risk my life when there's another way?"

The two share intelligence about military operations and plan to loot Nato supply convoys and divide-up the proceeds, the newspaper reported.

Wali told the newspaper that he met the local Taliban chief in a bazaar, where the two agreed a ceasefire and plans to ambush NATO convoys on the Kabul-Kandahar highway.

Afghan police officers sit in the back of a police truck, as a U.S. Marine is seen in the foreground in Aynak
In this photo taken on July 7, 2009, Afghan police officers sit in the back of a police truck, as a U.S. Marine is seen in the foreground in Aynak. (Photo: Guttenfelder / AP)

"The plan is simple," Wali told the newspaper. "When the Taliban attack the convoys we stay in our bases. If the Taliban capture something valuable then they share it with us later."

Local Taliban commander Mohammad Hassan told The Times that he had hit dozens of convoys in this way.

Around 20 percent of NATO supply convoys come under attack in Afghanistan, the newspaper reported. NATO and the government of President Hamid Karzai have down-played down the significance of such ceasefires and informal agreements, it added.

However, at least one recently returned officer said such agreements seemed to be commonplace.

"In almost every combat outpost I visited, troopers reported to me they had intercepted radio or other traffic between (Afghan forces) and local Taliban making mini non-aggression deals," Lt. Col. Daniel Davis told the newspaper.

In its own internal assessments, NATO acknowledged that that there has been a "conspicuous increase" in intelligence indicating cooperation between the Nato-trained Afghan security and the Taliban, according to the newspaper.

The Pentagon has said that the performance of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are key to the success of the handover.

"The ANSF, now responsible for leading security for almost half of Afghanistan’s population, partners with (NATO forces in Afghanistan) on nearly 90 percent of all coalition operations, of which the ANSF is the lead for more than 40 percent of those partnered operations," according to the Pentagon's

Despite the Pentagon's claims, almost all of the joint activities were simple operations, Michael O’Hanlon, a defense expert at the Brookings Institution, who visited Afghanistan last week, told The Times.

Reports that some Afghan security officials are colluding with insurgents is sure to cause worry as NATO nations meet in Chicago to discuss the future of the war-torn country once 130,000 NATO troops leave.

While some troops from NATO countries will most probably stay behind after 2014, local forces will be expected to bear the brunt of the fighting and security operations, and stop the country from sliding into civil war.

About 3,000 foreign soldiers have died in Afghanistan since the war began after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

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