Afghan Attacks on Allied Troops Prompt NATO to Shift Policy
By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr. and GRAHAM BOWLEY
KABUL, Afghanistan — After months of military leaders’ attempts to tamp down worries over the killings of American and NATO troops by the Afghan forces serving beside them, Gen. John R. Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, called an urgent meeting of his generals last Wednesday to address the escalating death toll.
In a room crowded with more than 40 commanders, the general underscored the need to quickly stop the bloodletting that is sapping morale, according to NATO officials, part of a new emphasis on protecting American and NATO forces after a spate of attacks that included the killing of six Marine trainers this month.
In one of a series of recent steps, the military decreed that American and NATO service members should always carry a loaded magazine in their weapons, to save precious moments if attacked by Afghan forces. Another initiative, now a priority, is a program named “Guardian Angel” that calls for one or two soldiers to monitor the Afghans during every mission or meeting, officials say.
The “angels,” whose identities are not disclosed to the Afghans, must be prepared to fire on anyone who tries to kill a coalition service member.
The military has also analyzed the attacks. But the results have been worrisome. Only a handful of the 31 attacks this year have clearly been a result of Taliban activity like infiltration. That suggests a level of malaise or anger within the Afghan forces that could complicate NATO’s training program, which relies on trust and cooperation.
U.S. Says Iraqis Are Helping Iran to Skirt Sanctions
By JAMES RISEN and DURAID ADNAN
WASHINGTON — When President Obama announced last month that he was barring a Baghdad bank from any dealings with the American banking system, it was a rare acknowledgment of a delicate problem facing the administration in a country that American troops just left: for months, Iraq has been helping Iran skirt economic sanctions imposed on Tehran because of its nuclear program.
The little-known bank singled out by the United States, the Elaf Islamic Bank, is only part of a network of financial institutions and oil-smuggling operations that, according to current and former American and Iraqi government officials and experts on the Iraqi banking sector, has provided Iran with a crucial flow of dollars at a time when sanctions are squeezing its economy.
The Obama administration is not eager for a public showdown with the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki over Iran just eight months after the last American troops withdrew from Baghdad.
Still, the administration has held private talks with Iraqi officials to complain about specific instances of financial and logistical ties between the countries, officials say, although they do not regard all trade between them as illegal or, as in the case of smuggling, as something completely new. In one recent instance, when American officials learned that the Iraqi government was aiding the Iranians by allowing them to use Iraqi airspace to ferry supplies to Syria, Mr. Obama called Mr. Maliki to complain. The Iranian planes flew another route.
In response to questions from The New York Times, David S. Cohen, the Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, provided a written statement saying that Iran “may seek to escape the force of our financial sanctions through Iraqi financial institutions.” But he added that “we will pursue, and are actively pursuing, efforts to prevent Iran from evading U.S. or international financial sanctions, in Iraq or anywhere else.”
Some current and former American and Iraqi officials, along with banking and oil experts, say that Iraqi government officials are turning a blind eye to the large financial flows, smuggling and other trade with Iran. In some cases, they say, government officials, including some close to Mr. Maliki, are directly profiting from the activities.
“Maliki’s government is right in the middle of this,” said one former senior American intelligence official who now does business in Iraq.