A man dressed as an Afghan soldier wounded five ISAF troops in an attack late yesterday at a base in an area of eastern Afghanistan known to be a Taliban stronghold. The Afghan soldier escaped after the attack and is being sought by Afghan officials.
The “green-on-blue” incident, an attack by Afghan security personnel on Coalition forces, took place in the Sayyidabad district in Wardak province, an Afghan official told McClatchy Newspapers. The soldier who attacked the troops is said to have been from the northern province of Kunduz. The incident occurred in the same district where insurgents shot down a US helicopter last year, killing 38 US and Afghan troops, including 17 US Navy SEALs.
The Taliban claimed the soldier involved in yesterday’s shootings is named Mohammad Wali and has now joined the Taliban.
“The soldier has been with the puppet army based at the invader’s base for a long time,” the Taliban said, according to McClatchy. “He is now safely out of the area and has joined the local mujahedeen.”
Officials from the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, or IJC, confirmed the attack but would not comment on the nationality of the soldiers. US troops are known to operate in Sayyidabad in Wardak province.
IJC officials uncharacteristically commented on an attack that resulted in the wounding of soldiers.
Major Adam Wojack, the IJC Press Desk Officer, told The Long War Journal that the acknowledgment of the five casualties in the green-on-blue attack in Wardak province was an “‘exception to policy’ based on a type of event that continues to attract media attention.”
“In addition, our policies continue to evolve based on operational security and the informational demand of the public,” Wojack stated.
IJC has not disclosed the overall number of green-on-blue incidents in which ISAF soldiers were wounded by Afghan security personnel, or the attacks on ISAF personnel that did not result in casualties. ISAF told The Long War Journal in March that “these statistics … [are ] … classified.”
“[A]ttacks by ANSF on Coalition Forces … either resulting in non-injury, injury or death … these stats as a whole (the total # attacks) are what is classified and not releasable,” Lieutenant Colonel Jimmie Cummings, ISAF’s Press Desk Chief, told The Long War Journal. Cummings said that ISAF is “looking to declassify this number.”
Inquiries as to why the overall statistic is classified went unanswered. Now three months later, the data remains classified.
Yesterday’s green-on-blue attack is the second of its kind reported this month. On July 1, three British military advisers were killed by an Afghan policeman in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan.
Afghan security personnel are now estimated to have killed 89 ISAF soldiers since May 2007. Twenty-seven of the 89 ISAF soldiers, or more than 30 percent, have been killed this year. These attacks have taken place in all areas in Afghanistan, not just in the south and east.
In May, ISAF commander General John Allen said that about half of the “green-on-blue” attacks have been carried out by Taliban infiltrators. The Taliban routinely take credit for these attacks.
The rise in attacks against ISAF troops by Afghan personnel takes place as ISAF is seeking to accelerate the transition of security responsibility to Afghan forces. The plan calls for an increase in the number of ISAF trainers as well as more partnering of ISAF and Afghan units, and will heighten Coalition troops’ exposure to green-on-blue attacks. The US military has become so concerned with the green-on-blue attacks that it has ordered units to designate “guardian angels” in each unit whose job is to provide security for troops working with Afghans.
Sayyidabad a dangerous district
Last summer, Sayyidabad was the scene of several high-profile attacks by the Taliban and allied groups. The Taliban have been in control of the Tangi Valley, which runs through Sayyidabad, since the withdrawal of US forces from Combat Outpost Tangi in the spring of 2011. US troops turned over the base to the Afghan Army, which immediately abandoned it. The Taliban later released a videotape that showed hundreds of fighters and senior Taliban leaders massing at the abandoned base and conducting a tour.
On Aug. 6, 2011, the Taliban shot down a US Army Chinook helicopter in Sayyidabad. Thirty-eight US and Afghan troops, including 17 US Navy SEALS from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, were killed in the crash.
Then on Sept. 10, 2011, the Taliban detonated a massive suicide bomb outside of Combat Outpost Sayyidabad, killing four Afghans and wounding more than 100 people, including 77 US soldiers. US commanders later blamed the attack on the Haqqani Network, a powerful Taliban subgroup closely allied with al Qaeda.
Al Qaeda and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan are known to have a presence in Sayyidabad. Since the beginning of October 2010, Coalition and Afghan special operations forces have targeted al Qaeda, “foreign fighters,” and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan five times in Wardak province. (ISAF often uses the term “foreign fighters” to signify al Qaeda.) Three of those five raids took place in Sayyidabad. [See LWJ report, ISAF airstrike kills 3 al Qaeda operatives in Afghan east.]