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News | Sept. 25, 2012

CENTCOM senior enlisted leader visits Afghanistan, talks insider threat

By Sgt. Ashley Curtis , 117th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment (Hawaii)

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (September 25, 2012) — Dealing with the insider threat in Afghanistan can sometimes be thought of as an Afghan problem, dealt with by coalition forces serving in theater. Command Sgt. Maj. Frank A. Grippe has a different perspective.

He sees the two groups as one in the same, and believes everyone in the fight has a responsibility to mitigate the threat of Afghan National Security Force members turning their weapons on coalition forces.

“We as a force have an issue within our force, so the keys words there are we and our,” said Grippe, U.S. Central Command senior-enlisted leader. “The problem is we have individuals within our force who have assassinated fellow partners within our force. This is just as much an Afghan problem as it is an American-coalition problem. And here in the U.S. forces, we’ve termed it as an internal threat. ”

Afghan National Army soldiers and various Afghan National Police groups, collectively known as Afghan National Security Forces, have been partnering with coalition forces for the past decade to cultivate a sustainable and professional security presence in Afghanistan.

“When I first got here in November 2001, me personally, I was fighting [alongside] militias. When I got here in 2004, I was still fighting alongside militias, but we were also standing up the ANA,” Grippe recalls during a recent visit to Regional Command (South) in Afghanistan. “In 2012, we have this large-standing, professionally-trained force that we’re partnering with.”

He points out that today, “we have 300,000-plus Afghan National Army soldiers in uniform, we have a central functioning government, we have a few hundred thousand various elements of Afghan police, and we’re bringing a whole lot of stability and police and security to this nation.”

Grippe recognizes the threat insider attacks pose on this progress and encourages soldiers to combat the issue through training and heightened awareness. He is encouraging all soldiers, from commanding generals to the most junior-enlisted soldier, to gain knowledge, be empathetic and sensitive to cultural differences.

“I’d have to say 75-80 percent of the internal threat is due to cultural and religious differences that we could easily amend just through some leadership and proper training, education and discipline on our part,” said Grippe. “And maybe 20 percent or so is through a campaign by our enemies to actually infiltrate people into the force that cause this type of havoc.”

Coalition forces in Afghanistan have also implemented the Guardian Angel program when partnering with ANSF Forces. The program designates at least one person per group to remain extra vigilant and trained to react in the event an insider attack occurs during partnership operations.

The senior-enlisted leader knows coalition forces cannot let this threat destroy the work ANSF and NATO forces have done here.

“We can’t let this issue fracture our partnership, especially during this most critical time of our campaign plan,” he said. “We’ve got to [stay] shoulder-to-shoulder even more, show more trust and keep training and building the capacity of our Afghan armed forces, especially to compliment our responsible withdrawal [from Afghanistan] with success and honor.“