By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press ServiceMarch 6, 2012
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (March 6, 2012) -- The Taliban's adoption of murder tactics is a sign of their weakness, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said here Friday.
There have been a number of so-called "green on blue" incidents, in which members of the Afghan army and police killed NATO International Security Assistance Force troops, since the accidental burning of Qurans at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan.
These incidents are being taken seriously, but the United States and NATO will not change its strategy in response, Panetta told 101st Airborne Division Soldiers.
The secretary said he discussed these incidents with Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
Panetta said Allen told him "the Taliban are going to resort to these kinds of criminal acts against our guys because, frankly, they are failing in everything else. They haven't been able to organize themselves. They haven't been able to retake any of the areas that we have taken. This is the one way they can get some attention."
The military will continue with the strategy in place to work with the Afghan security forces and train them to assume the security load, Panetta said. NATO will fully transition the security responsibility to the Afghans by the end of 2014. Today, the Afghan security forces have responsibility for the security of more than half the population.
The fact that members of the Taliban are trying a new tactic will not dissuade NATO and the Afghan government from continuing with the strategy, he said.
"It means that our troops have to be prepared to deal with this," Panetta said. "We've got a training brigade here that will be going over there. They've got to make sure these (Afghans) are properly screened, properly trained and they've got to watch each other's backs."
While the "green on blue" incidents are horrific and tragic, people must remember that more than "99 percent of the Afghan army are doing the right thing -- they're there, they've shown over the past few days that they can control these demonstrations and do what they must do.
"I've made clear and I will continue to make clear that, regardless of what the enemy tries to do to us, we are not going to alter our strategy in Afghanistan," Panetta said.
During his visit to Fort Campbell and the "legendary" 101st Airborne Division based there, Panetta met with Soldiers preparing to go to Afghanistan to train National Security Forces there. He also visited the Air Assault School and said the 101st already demonstrates the agility and speed the rest of the military needs to adopt.
In addition, the secretary also met with Gold Star families, who lost immediate family members in combat, and with the division's leaders.