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As Attacks Continue, NATO Scales Back Joint Operations In Afghanistan

A suicide bomber struck a convoy of buses today in Kabul, killing at least 12 people — mostly foreigners. (AFP/Getty Images)

NATO's announcement Monday that it is suspending some joint operations with Afghan forces could have a "huge impact" on coalition forces' work in Afghanistan, NPR's Soryaya Sarhaddi Nelson said earlier today on Morning Edition.

Since about 80 percent of the missions there in recent months have been joint operations, the decision seems sure to put "a damper on plans for turning over security responsibilities" in Afghanistan, she told show host Renee Montagne.

Word of NATO's decision comes, of course, after weeks of so-called green-on-blue attacks by persons dressed in Afghan police or military uniforms against U.S. and coalition forces. More than 50 international troops have died this year in such attacks.

The news also comes as other types of deadly attacks continue in Afghanistan. Today, The Associated Press reports, "a suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a mini-bus carrying foreign aviation workers" to the airport in Kabul. The death toll, AP says, is "at least 12." The wire service adds that "a militant group claimed the attack aimed to avenge an anti-Islam film that ridicules the Prophet Muhammad."

This morning, NATO commanders at International Security Assistance Force, Afghanistan, issued a statement they say "clarifies" the decision on joint operations. It reads, in part:

"In response to elevated threat levels resulting from the Innocence of Muslims video, ISAF has taken some prudent, but temporary, measures to reduce our profile and vulnerability to civil disturbances or insider attacks. This means that in some local instances, operational tempo has been reduced, or force protection has been increased. These actions balance the tension of the recent video with force protection, while maintaining the momentum of the campaign.

"We've done this before in other high tension periods, and it has worked well. Under this guidance, and as conditions change, we will continue to adapt the force posture and force protection. The [Security Force Assistance] model is integral to the success of the [Afghan National Security Forces], and ISAF will return to normal operations as soon as conditions warrant."

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