The US military today suspended most of its combat patrols with Afghan forces as the green-on-blue, or insider attacks by Afghan security personnel on Coalition troops, continue to spike. The training of Afghan forces and their partnering with US troops has been the cornerstone of the Obama administration’s strategy to hand over security to the Afghans as the US completes its withdrawal by 2014.
“The order effectively suspends ‘until further notice’ most of the operations which US and Afghan troops conduct side by side,” CBS News reported today. “At higher headquarters, Afghans and Americans will still work together, but in the field small unit operations putting Afghan soldiers alongside Americans … will be suspended unless an exception is granted by a commanding general.”
Operations by units below the battalion level have been suspended, according to The New York Times. However most of the engagements against the Taliban and allied groups in Afghanistan occur at the small-unit level — the squad, platoon, and company.
It is unclear if the order applies to other militaries in the International Security Assistance Force, NATO’s command in Afghanistan.
The suspension of combined US and Afghan combat operations takes place just over two weeks after the US Special Operations Command shut down the training of more than 1,000 new Afghan Local Police recruits due to the increase in murders of their personnel by their Afghan partners. The Afghan Local Police force is an initiative that provides support to Afghans so they can furnish security for their own villages. The ALP have been described as vital to ISAF’s strategy. The ALP are to provide security in key districts as foreign troops continue withdrawing from Afghanistan.
Today’s order to suspend cooperation between US and Afghan forces in the field was issued after three green-on-blue attacks over the past three days resulted in the deaths of four US soldiers and two British troops.
The latest insider attack took place on the evening of Sept. 16. An Afghan soldier opened fire on a vehicle being driven inside Camp Garmser, a shared base in Helmand province; a foreign civilian worker was wounded in the attack. The attacker thought the vehicle contained NATO troops. According to the Associated Press, another Afghan soldier took the attacker into custody after disarming him.
Another attack on Sept. 16, in Zabul province, resulted in the deaths of four USAF troops and the wounding of several more. The attacker, an Afghan policeman, was killed in return fire from another soldier; several other Afghan policemen were wounded.
And an attack on Sept. 15 in Helmand province resulted in the deaths of two British soldiers and the wounding of four more. The attacker was killed by return fire.
According to The Long War Journal’s Special Report, Green-on-Blue attacks in Afghanistan: the data, insider attacks account for 15% of Coalition casualties so far this year. There have been a total of 59 such attacks on Coalition forces since 2008, and they have occurred in 18 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, with the vast majority of the attacks taking place in Helmand province (16 attacks) followed by Kandahar province (9 attacks). Since 2008, insider attacks have killed 114 Coalition troops and affiliates and have wounded 92. The number of attacks has spiked since 2008, starting with 2 attacks reported in 2008; to 5 in 2009; another 5 in 2010; to 15 in 2011; to 32 in 2012. The steep rise in attacks parallels the increased pairing of Coalition troops with Afghan forces in training and mentoring situations, and occurs as the overall number of Coalition troops is sharply declining due to the planned transfer of Afghan security to Afghan forces by 2014.
The suspension of combined US and Afghan combat operations took place just one day after General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued an unusually candid statement warning of the gravity of the green-on-blue attacks.
“You can’t whitewash it. We can’t convince ourselves that we just have to work harder to get through it. Something has to change,” Dempsey told the Armed Forces Press Service.
But US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta dismissed the green-on-blue attacks as the “last gasp” of the Taliban.
The Obama administration has claimed numerous times in the past that the Taliban’s “momentum” has been “broken.” However, an analysis of the data by The Long War Journal shows that the opposite is true.