The Taliban said one of its fighters who infiltrated the ranks of the Afghan National Army was responsible for killing US troops yesterday who were operating in the eastern province of Nangarhar against the Islamic State. The insider, or “green-on-blue” attack – where Afghan security personnel open fire on Coalition forces – is the second recorded in Afghanistan so far this year.
The US military confirmed that three soldiers were killed and another was wounded and “evacuated for medical treatment.” The statement did not identify the soldiers or their unit, nor did it indicate how they were killed.
The Taliban, in a statement released on its official website, Voice of Jihad, said that “an infiltrator Mujahid in the ranks of enemy forces opened fire on US troops that were embedded with their hirelings in Lata Band area of Achin district, eastern Nangarhar province.” The Taliban claimed that four US soldiers were killed and several more were wounded.
Afghan officials confirmed that three US soldiers were killed and another was wounded, and identified the shooter as an “Afghan commando,” according to the BBC. Both Afghan officials and the Taliban confirmed that the Afghan soldier who opened fire on his US counterparts was killed.
The combined US and Afghan forces were operating in Achin district, a stronghold of the Islamic State’s Khorasan province. Ironically, the Taliban and the Islamic State are enemies and routinely clash in Nangarhar, and the insider attack that killed the three soldiers will only benefit the Islamic State by temporarily halting offensive operations.
Three other US soldiers have been killed while battling the Islamic State in Achin district so far this year. All three soldiers were killed in April during two separate operations. Two of the soldiers were killed during the April 27 raid which also killed Abdul Wasib, the emir for Islamic State’s Khorasan province.
Just days after the first US soldier was killed in Achin in early April, the US military dropped the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, or MOAB (better known as the “Mother of all Bombs”), on an Islamic State tunnel complex in the district. Scores of Islamic State fighters were reportedly killed, however the group remains entrenched in the district to this day.
Taliban views insider attacks as a key tactic to defeat US
Yesterday’s insider attack was the second recorded by FDD’s Long War Journal so far this year. Many insider attacks go unreported as they may not cause casualties.
The other attack this year, on March 19 at a base in Helmand province, resulted in three US troops being wounded. The attacker, an Afghan National Army officer from the 215th Maiwand Corps, was killed. The Taliban did not claim credit for the shooting, but did acknowledge it. Zabihullah Mujahid, an official Taliban spokesman described the Afghan solider as “an Afghan with a sense of patriotism.”
In the past, the Taliban has infiltrated Afghan security forces to carry out such strikes or convinced soldiers or policemen to turn their weapons on coalition personnel. In 2012, Mullah Omar, the founder and first emir of the Taliban, announced that he created the “Call and Guidance, Luring and Integration” department “with branches … now operational all over the country,” to encourage defections and strikes on coalition forces.
Since Omar’s announcement, the Taliban has said that insider attacks are a key part of its military strategy when announcing the commencement of its annual spring offensive.
“These operations will involve conventional attacks, guerrilla warfare, complex martyrdom attacks, insider attacks, and use of IEDs to achieve their objectives,” the Taliban said in its statement on Operation Mansouri, the 2017 offensive.
These incidents have decreased from 44 in 2012 to just two in 2016 and two more so far this year. This is due to a dramatic decrease in coalition forces after the end of the surge in 2012 as well as improved security measures. [For in-depth information, see Green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan: the data.]