Another ISAF soldier killed in green-on-blue attack in Afghanistan

A member of the International Security Assistance Force was shot and killed in southern Afghanistan today when a man in an Afghan police uniform turned his weapon on a group of ISAF soldiers, ISAF stated in a press release. The release did not identify the nationality of the dead ISAF soldier, and did not specify whether other troops were injured in the attack.

There has been an extraordinary spike in green-on-blue attacks recently; they now account for over 13% of ISAF casualties this year. Today’s attack is the eighth such attack on ISAF personnel in the past two weeks; 11 soldiers have been killed in the eight attacks.

The US is becoming increasingly concerned about the rise in attacks by Afghan forces against their Coalition colleagues, and is pressing the Afghan government to adopt more stringent vetting measures for recruits to Afghan forces, according to Reuters. The US military also issued a directive this week to all Coalition troops instructing them to carry a loaded weapon at all times.

As the attacks have increased, the Taliban have seized on them in their propaganda. On Aug. 7, the Taliban released a video of two Afghan soldiers who attacked ISAF soldiers in Kunar and Uruzgan [see Threat Matrix report, Observations on Taliban video ‘welcoming’ rogue ANA soldiers].

In a statement released on jihadist forums this week, Mullah Omar, the leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, or the Taliban, addressed the issue of green-on-blue attacks. Omar claimed that the Taliban have “cleverly infiltrated in the ranks of the enemy according to the plan given to them last year.” He 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.]

Background on green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan

Green-on-blue attacks have spiked since the beginning of 2011, with nearly 75 percent occurring since the start of last year. Of the 102 ISAF soldiers believed to have been killed by Afghan security personnel since May 2007, a total of 40, or nearly 40 percent, were killed this year. Last year, 35 ISAF soldiers were killed in green-on-blue attacks. These attacks have taken place in all areas in Afghanistan, not just in the south and east.

So far this year, green-on-blue attacks have caused 13 percent of the ISAF deaths; 306 Coalition soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan this year, according to

Over the past two weeks, there have been eight green-on-blue attacks against ISAF troops, counting today’s attack. In the preceding seven attacks, 10 US soldiers have been killed. On Aug. 7, two Afghan soldiers killed a US soldier in the east before defecting to the Taliban. On Aug. 9, US troops killed an Afghan soldier who was attempting to gun them down at a training center in Laghman province. On Aug. 10, six US soldiers were killed in two separate attacks in Garmsir and Sangin districts in Helmand province. On Aug. 13, a policeman wounded two US soldiers in Nangarhar province. And on Aug. 17, two US soldiers were killed by a member of the Afghan Local Police in Farah province, and in a separate attack in Kandahar province, ISAF troops were attacked but no casualties were reported.

Last month, three green-on-blue attacks were reported. Although as a matter of policy ISAF does not report on attacks that do not result in deaths, this trend seems to be changing, as two of the three attacks reported last month involved situations in which soldiers were wounded but not killed. On July 1, three British military advisers were killed by an Afghan policeman in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. Four days later, on July 5, five ISAF personnel were wounded in an attack in Wardak province. And on July 23, two more ISAF soldiers were wounded in an attack in Faryab province.

In May of this year, ISAF commander General John Allen said that about half of the green-on-blue attacks have been carried out by Taliban infiltrators. The Taliban routinely take credit for these attacks.

The rise in attacks against ISAF troops by Afghan personnel takes place as ISAF is seeking to accelerate the transition of security responsibility to Afghan forces. The plan calls for an increase in the number of ISAF trainers as well as more partnering of ISAF and Afghan units, and will heighten Coalition troops’ exposure to green-on-blue attacks.

The US military has become so concerned with the green-on-blue attacks that it has ordered units to designate “guardian angels” in each unit whose job is to provide security for troops working with Afghans. But the attacks have not abated.

The surge in green-on-blue attacks has prompted the US military to expand its counterintelligence capability in Afghanistan at the battalion level and above, according to Reuters. Announcing the change, General Martin Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Afghan forces were also trying to address the problem and had already discharged “hundreds of soldiers” suspected of having been radicalized. The Telegraph reports that the Afghan army has added 300 intelligence specialists to help detect infiltrators, and that 75 percent of the force will be reinvestigated and enrolled in a biometrics database.

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  • Joker says:

    The campaign is crumbling from within and I fear more of these attacks as the troop drawn down continues. The number of Green on Blue attacks this year is truly shocking.

  • JRP says:

    The only reason this infiltration tactic is working is because of the U.S.’s inability since WWII to truly stay the course for the duration until genuine victory has been achieved. You want to end this nonsense? Have the President make a dramatic Nationally televised announcement to the Country that, rather than bailing out in 2014, we are going to remain in Afghanistan indefinitely until the WoT is won. Do that and you will have disarmed Taliban/AQ of its strongest weapon; namely, the propaganda to the Afghan people to the effect that once the Americans leave we are going to take revenge on all those who did not come over to the side of the insurgency. The Afghan people aren’t stupid. They know that when time is up for the U.S. and our troops pack & leave, the Taliban will be able to overthrow the present corrupt regine with a feather.

  • If you go by the NY Times report on this, the U.S. officials do not quite understand why this is happening.
    On a related note, our top terrorism experts do not fully understand the cause(s) of radical Islam either (this was put on paper by none other than Bruce Hoffman).
    It is as clear as a sunny day: our political, scholarly and military establishments do not understand the enemy.
    The pity is, it does not have to be.
    When we can send people to moon, why can not we be able to figure out the inner-workings of an existential threat?

  • JRP:
    Your comments are symptomatic of Washington’s continued inability to wage a 21st century war.
    America can no longer stay in Afghanistan, it is no longer possible. This is because of the nature of the religion-based ideology it is fighting.
    First and foremost, in my view, the key to winning a war in the modern era is to get the ideological edge, because no advanced nation can pulverize the enemy as they did in World War II. American people would not support that, period.
    By ideological edge, I mean, undercut and neutralize the enemy’s ideology, like they did with Soviet Union.
    Since America is state where religion holds sway, it can not so obviously undercut enemy’s ideology which is based on religion.
    There is a way out, as I have discussed in my book, it is through an entity called science.

  • Devin Leonard says:

    As I have stated many times before. As a member of the Corps “Special Operations Regiment” We never had any infiltraitors or “pissed off” Afghans raise thier guns at us or the SEALs or SBS forces we worked with. This leads me to disbelieve the story that these are all just a bunch of disgruntleled Afghans. I think these are infiltraitors and the Army knows it. We need to do something substantial and quick to identify these scum and deal with them permanently!

  • Feral Jundi says:

    In order to stop ‘insider attacks’, you need guys on the inside of these units hunting insiders. That means well placed moles in all of the police and military units, trying to get an understanding of what is going on within.
    That, and Afghans that are in these units can do a lot to help cleanse their units. Give them incentives in the form of bounties for turning in enemy infiltrators. They also need a safe and anonymous way of doing it so they won’t be targeted by the enemy later. Anything to probe the inner workings of these units, and eliminate the cancer without destroying the ‘body’.
    Another way to look at this is that we should be doing the same thing against the Taliban. It is called pseudo operations and the enemy obviously is using this tactic to their advantage. Hell, we are not even counting the damage being done by enemy insiders that are just reporting on the units they are in, and causing damage that way.
    So that is my suggestion. Use ‘mimicry strategy plus one’ to not only copy what the enemy is doing, but to add that one little thing to the process– that the enemy is not doing, that gives us the edge in these types of operations. Just imagine how much damage could be done to the Taliban if we had our own insiders within their ranks? Something to ponder…..

  • anan says:

    What percent of all ANSF casualties are caused by green on green?
    The ANSF lose about 220 dead a month to the enemy. [ISAF loses about 40 dead a month.] How many of these are green on green?
    ISAF has reported that green on green is approximately three times as high as green on blue. Anecdotally this matches reporting from the field. Does this mean that ISAF loses 5 per month to green on blue and that the ANSF loses 15 per month to green on green?
    If so, then the ANSF are losing 7% of all their dead to green on green.
    This is hard to measure accurately since Afghan MoD and MoI do not provide their aggregate green on green casualties.
    The largest threat of green on green and green on blue in my opinion is to make the ANSF less likely to accept Pashtun recruits from outside Kunduz and Nangarhar; as well as to cast the pall of suspicion and mistrust against non Nangarhar and Kunduz Pashtuns serving inside the ANSF from their fellow service members.

  • tung says:

    The campaign is crumbling

  • ZZMike says:

    What “solutions”????? We’ve already adopted one: every soldier is now armed, all the time.
    But how are our guys now going to be able to trust any Afghan soldier? Combat absolutely relies on trust.
    “… if we had our own insiders within their [Taliban] ranks?”
    It would be easier to get Pee-Wee Herman to infiltrate a Masai tribe. The infiltrator would have to be born and bred Afghan.
    Which would make him suspect right off the bat.

  • Peter Dow says:

    The Afghan National Army, the “green” force is rotten, if not to its core then to much of the periphery. Some of the green is more like gangrene (gan-green, get it! ) The problem I see is in the disconnect between the political control (Karzai) and the funding (mostly from the USA but anyway internationally funded).

    Wikipedia: Afghan National Army
    “The new Afghan National Army was founded with the issue of a decree by President Hamid Karzai on December 1, 2002”

    Karzai as the “duly” (ahem) elected president of Afghanistan is perfectly entitled to run an Afghan national army but Afghans should pay for that themselves.
    Afghanistan is a poor nation and could not afford that much of an army but if they paid for it themselves, at least the Afghan national army would likely be honest, accountable to Afghans and take on limited tasks – secure the presidential palace, military headquarters and might be up to defending the capital Kabul and surrounding land, maybe.
    Now the issue is this – to secure all of Afghanistan, even to secure our supply routes, we need lots of troops and it makes sense to have some kind of Afghan force to help us – but we need a bigger and better green force than the Afghans can afford to pay for. (Also why would a national Afghan force want to prioritise defending our supply routes? They wouldn’t want to.)
    So the West, NATO needs to pay for some green Afghan forces – that’s a good idea, if, if, if, if and only if, those green forces we are paying for are auxiliary to NATO-ISAF – run by NATO-ISAF – under the control of a NATO general, maybe an American general if you could find a good one to do it.
    That way we would only recruit capable Afghans into the green force we pay for and interact with daily. We’d be sure our green troops were loyal – wouldn’t shoot our blue troops.
    No way would we have any incentive to spend our own money on disloyal incapable Afghans in green uniform so we would not do it, if we had political and military control over our green forces, which we would have if they were called “The NATO-ISAF Afghan auxiliary force” – with no pretence of them being an Afghan national force under Karzai.
    However, some idiot has come up with the idea of paying Afghans to have an army funded by us but controlled by Karzai so there is no accountability. The people in charge, deciding who to recruit, can recruit bad soldiers because they get paid more by the US for soldiers, whether they be bad soldiers or not.
    Why wouldn’t Karzai and this guy, Lt. Gen. Sher Mohammad Karim, Commander of the Afghan National Army recruit junkies, thieves, murderers and agents for the Taliban into the Afghan National Army? Why wouldn’t they recruit anybody they can find into the Afghan national army if, for every soldier they can name, they get paid more US dollars? Where’s the incentive for Karzai and Karim to recruit only good soldiers? There isn’t any incentive at all.
    Again the US ends up funding corruption. If a green soldier kills a blue then who gets held responsible in the chain of command? Nobody gets held responsible.
    Who should get held responsible? The US and NATO should. We should blame ourselves for paying anything for an army which we do not have any political control over.
    What on earth does Panetta (and what did Gates before him) think he is (was) doing trusting this guy Karzai and his general Karim with billions of US tax-payer dollars to pay for a green army?
    Why are NATO defence ministers happy with the poor leadership from NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Admiral James Stavridis? Shouldn’t the NATO leaders have spotted this fatal flaw in green troop organisation and tried to re-organise green forces as I suggest here, if they know what they are doing (which they don’t)?
    The competent answer to green on blue attacks is to split up the Afghan army into two distinct forces –

    a national Afghan army which Afghans pay for and is commanded by Karzai and whichever general he wants to appoint. (dark green)
    a NATO-ISAF auxiliary force of Afghans, funded by the US and other NATO counties and international donors. This would be commanded by our generals. (light green)

    So there should be two green armies – each of a different shade of green. Karzai’s dark green he would use to defend himself and his capital. Our light green we would use to defend our supply routes and to support our operations in Afghanistan generally.
    Only when the Afghan economy had grown to the point that they could afford to pay for a big enough army to defend the whole country would we transfer our light green army over to Afghan national control and then we could leave Afghanistan in the hands of Afghans.
    So long as we are paying for an Afghan force we must retain political control over it otherwise it fuels corruption and does little or nothing to help to fight the enemy we are trying to defeat and the green-on-blue attacks simply undermine political support for the whole Afghanistan / Pakistan mission.
    AfPak Mission on YouTube
    AfPak military strategy blog

  • anan says:

    “Posted by tung at August 20, 2012 3:20 AM ET:
    The campaign is crumbling
    Read more:
    The Taliban still has to prove its ability to take on the ANA in company or larger sized engagements.
    Killing 220 ANSF and 40 ISAF a month is something. But it is far from victory.
    ZZMike at August 20, 2012 8:42 PM ET:
    “But how are our guys now going to be able to trust any Afghan soldier?
    Not sure what you mean by this. ANSF trusting ANSF is more important than ANSF trusting ISAF. The vast majority of the NDS and ANA hate the Taliban. But they are full of conspiracy theories regarding how ISAF might be backing the Taliban and Al Qaeda against them.
    “It would be easier to get Pee-Wee Herman to infiltrate a Masai tribe. The infiltrator would have to be born and bred Afghan.”
    What are you talking about?
    There are many NDS and Tajik/Uzbek/Hazara ANA soldiers who would love to fill the ANSF with internal investigations folks and cast aspersions on Pashtuns serving in the ANA, especially Pashtuns that don’t come from some anti Taliban tribes and regions.
    How is that healthy for the ANSF?
    The goal of Green on Green and Green on Blue is to damage intra ANSF trust and make the ANSF less representative of Pashtuns from every part of Afghanistan.
    There is already a huge problem with the NDS not sharing information with MoD and MoI, and with MoD’s ground command not sharing information with its Corps, and its Corps not sharing information with brigades, all the way down the line. Each S3 officer seems to need to run their duplicative intelligence operations.
    This is a bigger problem than green on green and green on blue.

  • James says:

    Devin, thank you for your service and thank you for your comments.
    There’s no good reason for US to push the panic button here.
    Who are the real ‘desperados’ here? Is it US or could it be said to be the Taliban?
    I ask anyone to show me but one example in the history of warfare where these kind of tactics (being used by the Taliban) have decided a war in favor of the initiators that have used them.
    These thugs have no uniforms (or, at least they dare not show them in open combat).
    Over and over again, they have gone to wearing other entities uniforms in order to pull off these cowardly attacks, which have ended up killing for the most part innocent civilians.

  • James says:

    ZZMike, you state that:
    “What “solutions”????? We’ve already adopted one: every soldier is now armed, all the time.”
    You bring up an interesting point. My question is this: Why weren’t our guys armed right from the get go?
    This calls to mind what happened with FOB Chapman.
    I’d like to know were they ever always armed in the past. And, was this another lesson in ‘political correctness’ gone awry as what happened with FOB Chapman.


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