Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said Thursday that most NATO forces in Afghanistan are once again partnering with Afghan security forces. Last week NATO commanders in Afghanistan significantly scaled back partnered missions between NATO and Afghan troops as a precautionary measure in the wake of insider attacks and the “Innocence of Muslims” video.
At a Pentagon news conference Panetta said, ” I can now report to you that most ISAF units have returned to their normal partnered operations at all levels.”
Last week, NATO commanders issued a new directive ordering that most partnered operations had to be approved by the one and two star generals in charge of regional commands in Afghanistan.
NATO commanders in Afghanistan stressed the scale-back was a temporary move, even though it was seen as a major setback for the NATO mission in Afghanistan.
Just back from a trip to Afghanistan, Dempsey said he did not have the precise percentage, but said partnering was at the levels previous to the change.
“The leaders I had spoken to had resumed operations as they had been previously organized,” said Dempsey. “And so it was my assessment coming back that the command had kind of restored to its previous norm. But it’s changing all the time.”
Dempsey could not say precisely whether partnered operations were back to 90 percent of all operations in Afghanistan, but said ” Yeah, as far as I know sitting here in Washington, 8,000 miles away.”
A Defense official said Thursday that even though most NATO forces have resumed partnering with their Afghan counterparts, the directive remains in place.