The transfer of a U.S.-led international mission in Afghanistan has reached an irreversible phase, a top NATO commander said Tuesday, as he vowed to reduce a spate of so-called insider attacks on NATO forces.
"We have now reached a phase where the transition is irreversible," said Gen. Wolf Langheld, chief of NATO's Allied Joint Force Command, based in Brunssum in the southeastern Netherlands.
He told journalists at a press conference: "Afghan police and security forces are now in the lead to provide security in 75 percent of the country."
Afghan President Hamid Karzai in May announced a new transfer of security control from NATO that would see local forces take responsibility of three-quarters of Afghanistan's population.
It is the third phase of the transition of military control in the war-torn country and another step toward the eventual withdrawal of 130,000 U.S.-led NATO troops by the end of 2014.
But Langheld, who commands the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan's operational headquarters, said so-called "green-on-blue" attacks were of "grave concern."
"We have introduced a whole range of measures," he said, which included new training for young Afghan soldiers and their NATO counterparts to understand cultural differences.
An Afghan army soldier on Monday killed two NATO troops in the latest "green-on-blue" attack, taking the death toll from insider attacks to 12 alone this month and a total of 42 this year. This accounted for around 13 percent of all NATO deaths in 2012.
NATO has struggled to stem the attacks in which uniformed Afghans turn their weapons against their international allies and they have become a major issue in the Afghan war, eroding trust between the two forces.
The growing number of attacks is likely to add to pressure in NATO nations for an early exit from the increasingly unpopular conflict, now nearly 11 years old and America's longest war.