A system meant to ensure Afghan officials are consulted on sensitive international military operations has been "ineffective," the Afghan government said Friday.
Officials from the Defense Ministry, Interior Ministry and the Afghan intelligence agency are stationed at Bagram Air Field _ the main U.S. base in Afghanistan _ as part of an effort to ensure the Afghan government is included in military decisions, particularly on issues such as night raids and house searches, presidential spokesman Waheed Omar said.
But the country's National Security Council ruled in a meeting Sunday that this system _ called the Joint Operations Command _ is not working.
"The results of the work of the Joint Operations Command has been ineffective," the group said in statement, explaining that ministeries were not involved enough in operational decisions.
It's a judgment that calls into question the claim by the U.S.-led international military coalition that a large number of its operations are "Afghan-led." While there are many high-level Afghan officials involved in military strategy in the country, it has been difficult to determine how much the claim of Afghan leadership is genuine and how much involves Afghan commanders as figureheads. And while most operations include both NATO and Afghan forces, U.S. troops on the ground regularly complain that their Afghan counterparts are unskilled and undisciplined.
A spokesman for NATO forces, Capt. Gary Kirchner, said they were working on getting a copy of the statement before commenting.
Omar said the council was not necessarily blaming NATO forces for the breakdown of the Afghan consultation system, explaining that the reason for the problems needed to be investigated further.
"Maybe they are not consulted, or they are not in a position to influence the decisions, or maybe they are not communicating back to the line ministries what they are doing there," Omar said.
The criticism comes as one of the largest military operations _ around the southern city of Kandahar _ works through the third phase of a push that began this summer to rout insurgents from their southern strongholds. After spending much of July and August trying to secure Kandahar city and Arghandab district to the north, NATO is now conducting regular strikes into Zhari and Panjwai district _ which also abut Kandahar city and are seen as bed-down areas for insurgents.
Violence has spiked in the south along with the increased military operations, including a number of blasts inside Kandahar city this week. The most recent, on Saturday, killed two civilians.
However, officials in the south say they're making progress.
"Kandahar city is packed. There's a lot of business going on," said Lt. Col. George Wilson, who coordinates NATO operations in the south. Asked about attacks, he said the latest bombings did not appear coordinated, as had been the case previously.
On Saturday, a NATO and Afghan air assault into Panjwai district was carried off without any casualties and no insurgent resistance, district government chief Shah Baram said.
Yet a NATO service member was killed Sunday by a bomb blast in the south _ a regular occurrence in recent months. NATO declined to provide further details, in keeping with a policy of waiting for national authorities to release such information.
Many of the 44 NATO service members who have been killed so far this month were in attacks in the south.
Two Taliban commanders _ identified as Kaka Abdul Khaliq and Kako _ were killed in an operation in Kandahar's Zhari district Saturday, according to Afghan officials. Khaliq was widely considered the top insurgent commander in Zhari, with Kako working as his deputy.
A well-known Taliban fighter, Mullah Rahmatullah, was captured in the raid, said Zhari district Police Chief Bisimillah Jan.
Meanwhile, the Afghan government also clarified the rules for a planned dissolution of private security companies _ which guard everything from military convoys to embassies and private houses in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai has ordered that all private security companies be dissolved by the end of the year, with a number of previously vague exceptions for those working inside the compounds of international organizations.
In a statement issued by the president's office Sunday, Karzai said that private security security firms will not only be able to operate inside international compounds, but also travel with diplomats and work as protection for international military installations.
Associated Press writers Robert Kennedy in Kabul and Mirwais Khan in Kandahar contributed to this report.