Insider attacks continue in Uruzgan and Helmand
The latest in the continuing series of insider, or green-on-blue, attacks by Afghan forces on Coalition forces took place this morning in Uruzgan province, when an Afghan policeman shot and killed two US troops at a police headquarters in Khas Uruzgan. Already this year there have been at least 39 such attacks, which are responsible for nearly 16% of Coalition casualties. [For detailed information on the insider attacks, see LWJ special report, Green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan: the data.]
Today's International Security Assistance Force press release on the incident stated simply that "[t]wo U.S. Forces -Afghanistan service members died after an individual wearing an Afghan National Police uniform turned his weapon against them in Khas Uruzgan, Uruzgan," and noted that the incident is under investigation.
The attacker was "a trusted member" of the police force, according to Afghan officials. TOLONews reported that the officer had been on the force for "some months."
A local police official told Pajhwok News that "the foreign soldiers were at the police headquarters to attend a meeting with local officials."
Pajhwok also reported that the attacker escaped after the shooting and is being sought by the police.
The two slain US soldiers were likely members of the special forces. US Forces-Afghanistan personnel include US special operations forces troops, and are used to serve as advisers to the Afghan Local Police as well as conduct the targeted "night raids" against key nodes of the various terror groups operating in Afghanistan.
Just last week, on Oct. 18, the US military transitioned Coalition command authority for Uruzgan province, where today's attack occurred, from the Indiana National Guard's 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team to Australian army leadership. The ISAF press release called the transition "a milestone in the gradual transfer to full Afghan control of the region," in which the Coalition's Uruzgan team moves from a mentorship to an advisory relationship with the Afghan National Security Force. "The team regularly conducts partnered operations with the Afghan National Army's 4th Brigade of the 205th Hero Corps and Uruzgan's Afghan National Police," the statement noted.
Another suspected insider attack in Helmand province
On Oct. 24, a Royal Marine and a British female soldier on a foot patrol in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province were shot dead by Afghan policemen in an incident that is currently under investigation, The Telegraph reports. There are conflicting accounts of the incident.
According to The Times, the NATO troops shot first at an Afghan policeman out of uniform, thinking he was an insurgent, and Afghan policemen returned fire in the mistaken belief they were under attack. The Ministry of Defence said that the circumstances of the attack were unclear, but stated that the UK forces "were not working with any Afghan partners" at the time of the attack. The Telegraph further notes that although the two UK solders were first reported as having been killed by insurgents, other reports had emerged suggesting it was an insider attack. And in yet another twist on the story, Khaama Press reported that the two soldiers were killed by "friendly fire."
The Taliban have also claimed the attack. According to statistics maintained by The Long War Journal, more green-on-blue attacks have occurred in Helmand province than in any other of Afghanistan's 34 provinces. At least 16 such attacks have take place in Helmand since January 2008.
Insider attacks a key part of Taliban strategy
Today's attack in Uruzgan province comes one day after Taliban emir Mullah Omar released an Eid al-Adha message that urged followers to "[i]increase Increase your efforts to expand the area of infiltration in the ranks of the enemy and to bring about better order and array in the work." The statement continued: "We call on the Afghans who still stand with the stooge regime to turn to full-fledged cooperation with their Mujahid people like courageous persons in order to protect national interests and to complete independence of the country. Jihadic activities inside the circle of the State militias are the most effective stratagem. Its dimension will see further expansion, organization and efficiency if God willing."
Omar had previously addressed the issue of green-on-blue attacks at length in a statement released on Aug. 16. Omar claimed that the Taliban "cleverly infiltrated in the ranks of the enemy according to the plan given to them last year," and 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.]
As insider attacks continue to spike, Coalition officials are starting to acknowledge that the Taliban are behind a larger proportion of the attacks, and ISAF has intensified its efforts against the perpetrators. Many of the attackers appear to come from the eastern Afghan provinces, a BBC reporter wrote in September, where Taliban influence is prevalent. And in early October, ISAF commanders admitted that attackers from Pakistan with links to the Taliban and its subgroup, the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, were significantly involved in the attacks, the Associated Press reported.