Hours after a rogue Afghan National Police (ANP) commander lured Afghan and US soldiers to a checkpoint in the restive Sangin district of Helmand province and shot them to death, an Afghan man said to belong to the ANP but dressed in civilian clothes opened fire and killed three International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) personnel in another district in the same province.
Afghan officials have identified the slain ISAF personnel as US Marines, but ISAF officials have yet to confirm the nationalities or identities of those killed. The attack took place while an ISAF unit was visiting a police station in the Garmsir district of Helmand province. Afghan and ISAF officials have offered contradictory statements regarding the attack, which occurred on Friday, but ISAF has indicated that the gunman was dressed in civilian clothes and was apprehended after the shooting.
Helmand provincial police chief Col. Abdul Nabi Ilham said the Taliban were to blame for the deadly green-on-blue incidents that took place in Helmand on Friday, and claimed that Taliban fighters were trying to create an atmosphere of mistrust between Afghan and NATO-led forces, according to Pajhwok Afghan News. The Taliban were quick to claim credit for both attacks in Helmand, although the Taliban routinely exaggerate their role in security incidents throughout Afghanistan.
Such green-on-blue attacks have risen drastically in the past 18 months, and come at a critical juncture when NATO officials are transitioning security responsibilities to their Afghan counterparts. There have been four green-on-blue attacks in the past four days; seven US troops and at least one Afghan soldier have been killed in the attacks.
Afghan security forces are experiencing similar attacks. Earlier today, a man dressed as an Afghan policeman turned his weapon on a group of policemen in the Delaram area of Nimroz province, killing at least 10 ANP, according to Afghan officials who spoke with the Associated Press. Afghan officials later revised the number of ANP killed to 11, and the governor of Nimroz province told Khaama Press that the gunman was a local Taliban fighter recognized as Eisa Mohammad who had disguised himself as a police officer and conducted the massacre. The gunman was killed after Afghan security personnel returned fire.
Background on green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan
There have now been four green-on-blue attacks against ISAF troops in the past four days. Three of the attacks killed US soldiers. On Aug. 7, two Afghan soldiers killed a US soldier in the east before defecting to the Taliban. And on Aug. 9, US troops killed an Afghan soldier who was attempting to gun them down at a training center in Laghman province.
There were three green-on-blue attacks reported last month. 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.
Afghan security personnel are now estimated to have killed 96 ISAF soldiers since May 2007. To date, 34 of the 96 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 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.