PERU — U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe has gained the support of an Army general and a highly-respected senator in her call for a federal review of Afghan security forces in the wake of the ambush killings of a Maine man and five other soldiers on Nov. 29.

Pfc. Buddy McLain, 24, of Peru and fellow servicemen in the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division were killed by an Afghan border patrol recruit during training exercises.

It was the latest and deadliest in a series of related attacks.

Snowe, R-Maine, wants to ensure that Afghan security forces are no longer threats to U.S. military and civilian personnel who train and work with such forces.

“We must get to the bottom of this pattern of violence, both for the safety of our troops and for the long-term prospects of peace and stability in this region,” Snowe said by e-mail early Friday evening.

Last week, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Michael D. Jones told Snowe the Army will fully cooperate with her push for answers, including providing details on every similar attack.

Jones is chief of staff for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).

On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, joined the effort. Levin chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Snowe began seeking answers into the soldiers’ deaths in December.

Jones was the recipient of one of those inquiries; the other was Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh, who had a criminal investigation launched.

Last month, citing a 2007 Government Accountability Office document that raised concerns about processes used to vet Afghan security force personnel, Snowe additionally asked the GAO to review U.S. procedures for screening and conducting background investigations.

CENTCOM is also currently carrying out a theaterwide review of screening and monitoring practices for security forces, Snowe said.

“I want to assure you that I fully understand and concur with your concerns, as does the full line of leadership responsible for oversight of this activity,” Jones wrote to Snowe on Jan. 28. 

“I very much appreciate General Jones’ commitment to a thorough and critical review of these issues,” Snowe said.

She also touted the general’s experiences as commanding general of the Civilian Police Assistance Training Team of the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq.

“It makes him uniquely qualified to lead the U.S. Central Command effort,” she said.

Of Levin, Snowe said his support “is invaluable.”

As chairman of the Armed Services Committee, she said Levin’s interest in this issue “is a critical step and reinforces the imperative of the Department of Defense to address policies, procedures, and conditions that led to an attack on Buddy McLain and his unit in November.”

Corresponding with Jones, Snowe wrote on Jan. 26 that the future security of Afghanistan depends on how well the Army screens Afghan nationals they are placing in positions of power.

“Ensuring that those personnel are not connected to or co-opted by criminal, terrorist, or insurgent forces is critical to the future security interests of Afghanistan, particularly after U.S. and NATO forces depart the country,” Snowe said.

As such, current practices that have allowed criminal, terrorist or insurgent elements to attack U.S. and NATO personnel through Afghan security forces also present “a significant threat to the future stability of Afghanistan,” she said.

That’s why Snowe stressed that Jones change screening and monitoring policies and procedures “with the urgency that such a threat demands.”

Jones said events like the Nov. 29 incident are tragic, “however, the Afghan National Security Force should be viewed as a professional force that is maturing, in part due to the courage and valor of our troops such as Private McLain.”

Snowe said that she, too, recognizes there are significant inherent challenges in developing effective, trustworthy and accountable security forces in Afghanistan.

These include the country’s tribal nature, low literacy rates, widespread poverty, a general lack of infrastructure and information that would support typical vetting and monitoring practices.

“However, the fact that attacks by security forces on U.S. and NATO personnel have continued to occur lead me to believe that current practices are inadequate, and significant changes are necessary to prevent the further loss of life in such incidents,” Snowe said.

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U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, has called for a comprehensive review into the training and security procedures being employed by the U.S. Army in relation to the training of Afghan nationals.


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