Panetta says attacks by Afghans are not a trend

Mar 27, 2012, 2:01 AM

Associated Press

OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) – Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday that the killing of U.S. and NATO troops by Afghans are sporadic incidents and do not represent a trend that should derail ongoing negotiations with the Afghans on night raid operations and other issues.

Speaking to reporters en route to Canada, Panetta said the attacks _ including two separate incidents Monday that killed two British troops and one American _ should not detract from the highly sensitive discussions about how the U.S. should coordinate with the Afghans on military raids into Afghan homes.

In separate comments also on Monday, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, said that the U.S. is “at a pretty delicate moment in the negotiations” over the night raids. But, Allen added, “I am confident that we will end up where we want to be on both sides.”

Under a draft agreement that is expected to be signed this week, Afghan military units would take a larger role in planning and carrying out the raids, and an Afghan judge or panel would have a say, if not full veto, over the operations.

Panetta said the so-called green-on-blue attacks, in which Afghans kill U.S. or coalition troops, should not erode the trust between the two nations, or detract from the main strategy, which is to transfer control of security to the Afghans.

“There are going to be those that are vengeful, there are going to be those that decide to use this as a way to express their anger and their concern,” Panetta said. “These still are sporadic incidents, and I don’t think they reflect any kind of broad pattern.”

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters traveling with him to Bogota, Colombia, on Monday that the key to ending the problem is improving the Afghans’ own counterintelligence capabilities.

“We’ve done every possible thing we can do,” Dempsey said.

He acknowledged the risk to U.S. and other coalition forces as they train, advise and mentor Afghan security forces.

“I can tell you definitively that at this point our national security interests are such that we have to take the additional risks that this brings,” Dempsey said in an interview aboard his Air Force C-17 aircraft.

Panetta is in Ottawa to meet with the defense ministers of Canada and Mexico, the beginning of what U.S. officials hope will be a continuing effort to address shared security threats, including drug trafficking, cyber breaches and border issues.

Panetta said the three countries will talk about common challenges with a focus on how they can improve intelligence sharing and threat assessments.

__

Associated Press writer Robert Burns contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Panetta says attacks by Afghans are not a trend