WASHINGTON, March 1, 2012 — Three Afghan men killed two U.S. troops in southern Afghanistan today, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters today.
“We believe there were three attackers, [and] two of the attackers were subsequently killed” by coalition forces, he said.
“Our hearts go out to the families and the loved ones of the two U.S. service members who were killed,” the press secretary said.
While precise details are unclear, Little said, reports indicate the two attackers who were killed were Afghan security force members, and the third was an Afghan civilian. He acknowledged a rise in so-called “green-on-blue” incidents involving Afghan army and police members killing NATO International Security Assistance Force troops.
“These are troubling incidents when they occur, and we fully recognize that we’ve seen several of these incidents in recent weeks,” Little said.
U.S. military leaders are working to strengthen security measures at partnered facilities and to step up their scrutiny during vetting processes for Afghan army and police recruits, Little said.
“This has been something that has been on the radar screen … for some time,” he said. “This is a war zone. There’s no such thing as zero risk. But our strategy of working closely with [Afghan forces] is not changing.”
Little said U.S. forces will “stay the course” in Afghanistan. The overall trend in relations between the two sets of troops is positive, he added.
He noted some ISAF advisors have returned to work in select Afghan ministry buildings in the Afghan capital of Kabul. Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, ordered all ISAF members to withdraw from such work locations after two U.S. officers were killed while working at the interior ministry Feb. 25.
Those killings and a reported 20 Afghan deaths occurred as violent protests swept Afghanistan after ISAF troops inadvertently burned religions materials, including Qurans, at a detention facility in Bagram, Feb. 21.
Allen’s order that some ministry advisors resume their duties in Afghan government buildings reflects the need for ISAF forces to maintain close coordination with their Afghan counterparts, Little noted.
“It’s important to get back to work,” he said.
Little said the transition of security lead to Afghan forces continues throughout the country, and completing that transition is ISAF’s goal. “Our commanders in the field … are staying focused on the mission [and] understand the stakes involved,” he said.
There is a “strong sense” among ISAF leaders in Afghanistan that “we must do everything we can to carry out the strategy, [which] we believe has been working some time,” Little added.
Green-on-blue incidents are particularly troubling, he acknowledged, but should not obscure the larger picture of overall progress in Afghanistan. The insurgency is “on its heels,” he added.
Afghan forces have suffered losses alongside their ISAF partners, including over the past days while “trying to tamp down the protests in Afghanistan, and to quell the violence,” Little said.
The strategy, approach and mission in Afghanistan are not changing, the press secretary emphasized. “Our mission is one of transition, and it’s working,” Little said. “We have over 300,000 [Afghan security forces] right now who are working alongside ISAF personnel to help secure their own country. And that’s the end state we are looking for here.”
War in Afghanistan has never been conventional, and it’s not contained within neat battle lines, he said. “But we’re working through it, and the Afghans are working in good faith with us to execute the strategy,” he added.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)