Nothing wrong with the troops′ morale: ISAF | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 18.09.2012
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Nothing wrong with the troops' morale: ISAF

The number of insider attacks against NATO soldiers in Afghanistan is on the rise. German General and ISAF spokesman Günter Katz has spoken with DW about the developments.

DW: This past weekend was quite a bloody one for Afghanistan and ISAF soldiers. According to media reports, six NATO soldiers were killed in so-called insider attacks. What you know about the story behind these attacks?

Afghan policemen secure an area near the site of a suicide bomb attack in Kabul Photo: REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Attacks from Afghan security forces are increasing

Günter Katz: We look very closely at these incidents and we take each and every one of them very seriously. If you look at all attacks on ISAF troops, around 10 percent of them are infiltrations and around 15 percent are related to insurgents. Many of the attacks are triggered by personal disputes - because someone felt wronged or insulted, But in most cases, we don't know the motives. We don't know because the attackers are either killed in the incident or able to get away.

But it is true that the number of inside attacks has recently increased, isn't it?

Yes. Up to now, we have had 37 incidents this year with 51 casualties. But we must not forget that compared to last year, 60,000 more Afghan soldiers are fighting on our side. All together, there are around 500,000 soldiers and police - both Afghan and ISAF - who fight alongside each other every day and contribute to the improvement of the country's future.

Nonetheless, the trust is damaged. A number of weeks ago, NATO put training for Afghan security forces on hold. Does this mean that the mission to train Afghan security forces has failed?

I have to put this statement into the right context. It is true that training has been put on hold for the mean time for 1,000 local Afghan police. But training is solely an American responsibility. The Americans are the ones who made the decision. Our ISAF training has not stopped at any time and we continue to see positive results - especially when it comes to the quality of our Afghan partners. So what you are talking about is only a small part of what we do and it is a pure bilateral issue controlled by the Americans.

Can you trust your Afghan partners?

NATO UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters fly near the Spozhmai Hotel in Qargha lake in the outskirts of Kabul Photo: AFP PHOTO / Massoud HOSSAINI (Photo credit should read MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/GettyImages)

Civilians continue to die in NATO air raids

You know, trust is a complicated matter. You will surely find soldiers who are worried. There is no question about that. But you will find even more soldiers who say, "We know why we are here. We know our Afghan partners. We have been working with them for months. We sleep in the same tents, eat the same food, and fight alongside each other. Why should we not trust them now?" I don't believe that these 37 unfortunate incidents have damaged the entire morale of the forces.

This past weekend, in the eastern province of Laghman, a number of civilians were killed in NATO air raids. Do you think such attacks provoke insider attacks?

I don't think so. We keep saying - and the Afghans themselves know very well - that throughout the country around six percent of civilian casualties are caused by us. But most civilians are killed by insurgents. We deal with it very responsibly, we take it very seriously. We have implemented a number of measures to reduce the number of these kinds of incidents. Compared to last year, we have been able to reduce the number of injuries and deaths by 53 percent. We are on the right path to doing so. Each casualty and each injured person is one too many and we will continue to work intensively to prevent these things from happening.

Time and again the Taliban claim that they are capable of infiltrating Afghan security. How can you prevent that from happening?

Afghan special forces stand in formation during their graduation ceremony at a military training center on outskirts of Kabul Photo:Musadeq Sadeq/AP/dapd

Security is to be handed over to Afghan forces in 2014

The Afghans themselves are responsible for recruiting their people. And they don't have any trouble doing so. There are a lot of Afghans who want to join. The quality is also improving. The Afghans themselves have set the standards for joining the security force quite high by introducing an extensive recruitment process to ensure that no one who joins the force ends up turning on their comrades and killing them.

In a number of countries people are currently protesting against an anti-Islamic film. Protests are also being staged in Afghanistan. Will this have an effect on your mission? And, do you fear an increase in the number of insider attacks?

We have been quite lucky that developments like in Bengasi have not taken place here. We have the impression that the government as well as many of the authorities here are dealing with the situation responsibly and are dealing with the effect the video has had on the people. A lot has been done to keep the demonstrations peaceful. So far they have been quite peaceful and we hope it stays that way.

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