Crocker: Taliban Infiltration Worse Than US Will Admit

The US tries to play down the extent to which the Taliban has infiltrated the US-backed security forces, but it is hugely significant

by John Glaser, September 18, 2012

Taliban infiltration of the US-backed Afghan army and police is much worse than the US will publicly admit, former  US Ambassador Ryan Crocker said.

“I would put the percentage rather higher” than the 25 percent figure for enemy infiltrators that US officials have admitted to, he said, adding that infiltration of the forces the US and NATO train are the Taliban’s primary tactic.

“I think we underestimate at our peril” the number of Taliban “sleepers” in the Afghan security forces, said Crocker, who described the Taliban leaders – many of whom he has spoken to in failed peace talks – as ”tough, smart and resilient.”

The Obama administration’s entire counter-insurgency strategy going forward is to build up, train, and arm Afghan police and military to serve as a bulwark against the Taliban after most US forces leave in 2014. With such extensive Taliban infiltration of the very troops US taxpayers are funding and the US military are training, this strategy is an unmitigated failure.

So-called insider attacks, in which Taliban infiltrators in the Afghan security forces turn their guns on their NATO counterparts, has become one of the leading causes of death of occupation forces in the war, at more than 50 killed this year.

Earlier this month it was reported that the Taliban’s supreme leader Mullah Omar issued a statement bragging about extensive insurgent infiltration in America’s trained security personnel in Afghanistan.

“They are able to (safely) enter bases, offices and intelligence centers of the enemy,” he said. “Then, they easily carry out decisive and coordinated attacks, inflicting heavy losses on the enemy.”

As a former US official told Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker, “several hundred soldiers in the Afghan Army are thought to be agents for the Taliban or for Pakistan.” He said that many insurgents who have infiltrated the Afghan forces and killed US troops “had been planted in the Army by the Taliban or by Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s main intelligence branch.”

Crocker also lamented missed opportunities in the US war in Afghanistan, recalling his initial diplomatic involvement when the George W. Bush administration invaded and nearly toppled the Taliban in 2001. He said Iran was eager to ally with the US to help keep the Taliban out of power and maintain overall security in Afghanistan, but that the Bush administration responded to this by labeling Iran in an Axis of Evil terrorist states and then focused on invading Iraq.

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