U.S. military suspends joint patrols with Afghans

(CBS News) The strategy for getting U.S. forces out of Afghanistan depends on training Afghan soldiers and police to protect the country themselves, but on Monday the U.S. military suspended most joint field operations with Afghan forces because so many Americans are being killed by the men they are training.

Afghan government troops -- our allies -- have turned their guns on NATO forces 36 times this year, killing 51, most of them Americans. That is more attacks than the last two years combined.

The order effectively suspends "until further notice" most of the operations which U.S. and Afghan troops conduct side by side. At higher headquarters, Afghans and Americans will still work together, but in the field small unit operations putting Afghan soldiers alongside Americans -- the guts of the U.S. strategy to turn the fighting over to Afghans -- will be suspended unless an exception is granted by a commanding general.

The order was issued after a long weekend in which four American and two British troops were killed by so-called "insider attacks" -- Afghans turning their guns on their supposed allies.

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Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey called the surge in insider attacks "a very serious threat to the campaign."

In addition, two Marines were killed and eight fighter jets destroyed by enemy fighters who penetrated a heavily fortified base.

A Taliban video shot the morning after the attack on Camp Bastion shows smoke still rising from the most destructive enemy attack of the entire war. Just as disturbing is the fact the enemy was able to film this propaganda video, from just outside the base.

The attack began at 10 p.m. Friday night when a band of 15 enemy fighters somehow eluded detection by security cameras which scan the entire perimeter of Camp Bastion. Dressed in U.S. army uniforms, they cut their way through the outer wire and blew a hole through the base wall. Armed with automatic weapons, rocket propelled grenade launchers and suicide vests, they split into teams -- each going after a separate target. One went for the harrier jet fighters, another for the fueling stations, and a third for the helicopters. Within 30 minutes, the damage was done. A quick reaction force finally arrived and after a two-hour firefight, killed 14 attackers and wounded one who is now in custody.

One U.S. official put it simply: "We have got to do a better job at protecting our troops."

U.S. officials say that somewhere between 10 percent and 25 percent of the insider attacks are the work of enemy infiltrators. The rest are the result of personal insults and just plain cultural misunderstandings.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.

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