By Amie Ferris-Rotman
KABUL (Reuters) - NATO and Afghan officials are stepping up efforts to battle the insider threat in their war against insurgents, which has seen an increase in attacks by local security forces against their foreign partners, a U.S. navy expert said Thursday.
The Taliban have managed to recruit Afghan security forces and pay bribes for uniforms to impersonate them, said Navy Commander Derek Reveron.
In the latest incident, which took place earlier this month in the northern Kunduz province, a man dressed as an Afghan policeman shot dead a NATO service member.
"Overall, there has been an increase in rogue attacks and the Afghans are taking this pretty seriously," Reveron told Reuters in an interview at Camp Eggers, where he is a strategic adviser to the NATO-led training mission in Afghanistan.
NATO is racing against the clock to train Afghanistan's largely illiterate and poorly equipped army and police force by the end of 2014, the deadline for U.S. combat troops' exit and when all security responsibilities will be handed over to the Afghans.
These efforts are further complicated by "rogue" attacks. Reveron has analyzed over two dozen such incidents that have taken place since 2005, killing over 50 NATO forces.
The biggest risk -- accounting for around 20 percent -- is when Taliban insurgents recruit Afghan forces through intimidation, blackmail, financial gain or family ties, he said.
"We know insurgent groups want to infiltrate the Afghan forces," Reveron said, adding that the Afghans "are improving the screening process for all recruits."
The Afghan army has almost doubled its counterintelligence force to 478 over the last year.
NATO will have trained 73 percent of the Afghan army's counterintelligence force by December of this year, and all of them by April 2012.
All Afghan recruits to the army, police and air force are now biometrically enrolled through iris scans -- which detect unique patterns in the eyes -- and fingerprint technology.
"It is now more stringent to get into the Afghan army than the U.S. military," Reveron said.
Attacks within the Afghan forces, dubbed "green on green" by NATO in a reference to the color of their uniforms, also take place: between January 2010 and May of this year, 41 such incidents have occurred.
Uniform grabbing or buying for impersonation counts for just under 10 percent of the insider attacks against foreigners.
Reveron said U.S. uniforms were pilfered a year ago by insurgents who launched a suicide bomb attack on the NATO Bagram airbase north of Kabul, killing an American contractor.
Around a third of the attacks were caused by "combat stress," Reveron said, or violence stemming from emotional, intellectual or physical stress.
(Editing by Bryson Hull and Sanjeev Miglani)