On Jan. 6, a member of the Afghan National Army turned his weapon on ISAF troops in southern Afghanistan, killing one soldier and wounding six more. This latest green-on-blue, or insider, attack, is the first such incident in 2013 and the 73rd reported since Jan. 1, 2008, according to The Long War Journal’s statistics in Green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan: the data.
The attack took place in Afghanistan’s restive Helmand province, where 18 green-on-blue attacks have already been conducted over the past five years. According to the BBC, the latest attack occurred at Patrol Base Hazrat in the Nahr-e Saraj area. The soldier who was killed served as an engineer with the 28 Engineer Regiment, attached to the 21 Engineer Regiment, the UK Ministry of Defence stated.
The BBC report indicates the attack may have been preceded by an argument between Afghan troops at the base. The Telegraph says that according to the Ministry of Defence, “the attacker had initially turned his weapon on fellow ANA members, before turning his fire on ISAF soldiers.”
The attacker, who was been identified by Pajhwok Afghan News as a man named Sheikh from the eastern province of Laghman, tried to escape after shooting the British troops but was shot and killed by Afghan security forces.
The attacker had joined the Afghan National Army about a year ago, and was “well-known as being religious and would lead prayers, acting as an imam,” according to an Afghan soldier quoted by the Telegraph.
The Taliban quickly claimed the attack, as they have done in the past with such incidents. According to a statement released on the Taliban’s website today and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, the attack was conducted at about 7 p.m. by an ANA officer named Qasim, who “kill[ed] 8 invaders” and then left the outpost and was engaged by Afghan troops. The statement claimed that the attacker wounded two Afghan troops before he was killed. The Taliban routinely exaggerate casualty counts in their propaganda.
Just six months ago, there was another green-on-blue attack in the same district in Helmand. On July 1, 2012, three British military advisers were killed, and another member of ISAF personnel was wounded, in an attack by an Afghan Civil Order policeman in the Nahr-e Saraj district. The assailant was shot and wounded following the attack.
At a news conference after the recent attack, ISAF spokesman Gunter Katz said that despite the continuing threat posed by insider attacks, they would not impact the mission or cooperation between Coalition troops and Afghan forces, Pajhwok reported. He said the Coalition would continue to implement its strategy for preventing insider attacks, which includes vetting of Afghan forces “whether or not they have ties with rebels ….”
Insider attacks on Coalition forces have risen steeply over the past two years. In 2012, they caused 15% of Coalition casualties, as compared to 6% in 2011; and 2% or less in preceding years. They have become an important part of Taliban strategy as the Coalition drawdown continues in anticipation of the complete handover of security responsibility to Afghan forces in 2014.
The BBC report noted that in 2012 “a quarter of the British troops who died in Helmand, were killed in such attacks” and that [“a]ll six of the British troops killed during the latest six-month tour of duty have died this way.”