Less than a day after an Afghan soldier shot and killed four French troops in Kapisa, France has suspended its training mission with Afghan troops and has threatened to end its mission in Afghanistan if the issue is not properly addressed. From AFP:
“The French army is alongside its allies but we cannot accept that a single one of our soldiers be wounded or killed by our allies, it’s unacceptable,” Sarkozy said, dispatching Defence Minister Gerard Longuet to Afghanistan.
Longuet and army chief of staff Admiral Edouard Guillaud will establish the circumstances of Friday’s shooting in which an Afghan soldier shot dead four French troops and wounded 16 before being arrested.
“Between now and then all training, joint combat operations by the French army are suspended,” Sarkozy said.
“If security conditions are not clearly established, then the question of an early return of the French army will be asked.”
“We will have to take a difficult decision in the coming days. But I must assume my responsibilities before the French people and before our soldiers,” Sarkozy said.
Today The New York Times published an excellent article on high incidences of Afghan troops killing their NATO counterparts. It has been clear to me for some time that the number of killings of NATO troops by Afghan personnel has been inordinately high.
But the most troubling fallout has been the mounting number of Westerners killed by their Afghan allies, events that have been routinely dismissed by American and NATO officials as isolated episodes that are the work of disturbed individual soldiers or Taliban infiltrators, and not indicative of a larger pattern. The unusually blunt report, which was prepared for a subordinate American command in eastern Afghanistan, takes a decidedly different view.
“Lethal altercations are clearly not rare or isolated; they reflect a rapidly growing systemic homicide threat (a magnitude of which may be unprecedented between ‘allies’ in modern military history),” it said. Official NATO pronouncements to the contrary “seem disingenuous, if not profoundly intellectually dishonest,” said the report, and it played down the role of Taliban infiltrators in the killings.
The coalition refused to comment on the classified report. But “incidents in the recent past where Afghan soldiers have wounded or killed I.S.A.F. members are isolated cases and are not occurring on a routine basis,” said Lt. Col. Jimmie E. Cummings Jr. of the Army, a spokesman for the American-led International Security Assistance Force. “We train and are partnered with Afghan personnel every day and we are not seeing any issues or concerns with our relationships.”
The numbers appear to tell a different story. Although NATO does not release a complete tally of its forces’ deaths at the hands of Afghan soldiers and the police, the classified report and coalition news releases indicate that Afghan forces have attacked American and allied service members nearly three dozen times since 2007.
Two members of the French Foreign Legion and one American soldier were killed in separate episodes in the past month, according to statements by NATO. The classified report found that between May 2007 and May 2011, when it was completed, at least 58 Western service members were killed in 26 separate attacks by Afghan soldiers and the police nationwide. Most of those attacks have occurred since October 2009. This toll represented 6 percent of all hostile coalition deaths during that period, the report said.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.