A member of the International Security Assistance Force was shot and killed in southern Afghanistan today when a man in an Afghan police uniform turned his weapon on a group of ISAF soldiers, ISAF stated in a press release. The release did not identify the nationality of the dead ISAF soldier, and did not specify whether other troops were injured in the attack.
There has been an extraordinary spike in green-on-blue attacks recently; they now account for over 13% of ISAF casualties this year. Today’s attack is the eighth such attack on ISAF personnel in the past two weeks; 11 soldiers have been killed in the eight attacks.
The US is becoming increasingly concerned about the rise in attacks by Afghan forces against their Coalition colleagues, and is pressing the Afghan government to adopt more stringent vetting measures for recruits to Afghan forces, according to Reuters. The US military also issued a directive this week to all Coalition troops instructing them to carry a loaded weapon at all times.
As the attacks have increased, the Taliban have seized on them in their propaganda. On Aug. 7, the Taliban released a video of two Afghan soldiers who attacked ISAF soldiers in Kunar and Uruzgan [see Threat Matrix report, Observations on Taliban video ‘welcoming’ rogue ANA soldiers].
In a statement released on jihadist forums this week, Mullah Omar, the leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, or the Taliban, addressed the issue of green-on-blue attacks. Omar claimed that the Taliban have “cleverly infiltrated in the ranks of the enemy according to the plan given to them last year.” He urged government officials and security personnel to defect and join the Taliban as a matter of religious duty. He also noted that the Taliban have created the “Call and Guidance, Luring and Integration” department, “with branches … now operational all over the country,” to encourage defections. [See Threat Matrix report, Mullah Omar addresses green-on-blue attacks.]
Background on green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan
Green-on-blue attacks have spiked since the beginning of 2011, with nearly 75 percent occurring since the start of last year. Of the 102 ISAF soldiers believed to have been killed by Afghan security personnel since May 2007, a total of 40, or nearly 40 percent, were killed this year. Last year, 35 ISAF soldiers were killed in green-on-blue attacks. These attacks have taken place in all areas in Afghanistan, not just in the south and east.
So far this year, green-on-blue attacks have caused 13 percent of the ISAF deaths; 306 Coalition soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan this year, according to iCasualties.org.
Over the past two weeks, there have been eight green-on-blue attacks against ISAF troops, counting today’s attack. In the preceding seven attacks, 10 US soldiers have been killed. On Aug. 7, two Afghan soldiers killed a US soldier in the east before defecting to the Taliban. On Aug. 9, US troops killed an Afghan soldier who was attempting to gun them down at a training center in Laghman province. On Aug. 10, six US soldiers were killed in two separate attacks in Garmsir and Sangin districts in Helmand province. On Aug. 13, a policeman wounded two US soldiers in Nangarhar province. And on Aug. 17, two US soldiers were killed by a member of the Afghan Local Police in Farah province, and in a separate attack in Kandahar province, ISAF troops were attacked but no casualties were reported.
Last month, three green-on-blue attacks were reported. Although as a matter of policy ISAF does not report on attacks that do not result in deaths, this trend seems to be changing, as two of the three attacks reported last month involved situations in which soldiers were wounded but not killed. On July 1, three British military advisers were killed by an Afghan policeman in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. Four days later, on July 5, five ISAF personnel were wounded in an attack in Wardak province. And on July 23, two more ISAF soldiers were wounded in an attack in Faryab province.
In May of this year, 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. But the attacks have not abated.
The surge in green-on-blue attacks has prompted the US military to expand its counterintelligence capability in Afghanistan at the battalion level and above, according to Reuters. Announcing the change, General Martin Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Afghan forces were also trying to address the problem and had already discharged “hundreds of soldiers” suspected of having been radicalized. The Telegraph reports that the Afghan army has added 300 intelligence specialists to help detect infiltrators, and that 75 percent of the force will be reinvestigated and enrolled in a biometrics database.