Two US soldiers were killed during a pair of attacks by Afghan security personnel in southern and western Afghanistan. The so-called green-on-blue attacks have now accounted for 13 percent of ISAF casualties this year.
The first attack, which the International Security Assistance Force described as an “insider threat attack,” took place in Farah province earlier today. Two US soldiers were killed after a “member of the Afghan Local Police turned his weapon against two USFOR-A [US Forces Afghanistan] service members,” ISAF stated in a press release announcing the attack. The Afghan policeman was shot and killed after the attack.
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.
In the second attack, ISAF troops were attacked in Kandahar, but no casualties were reported.
The Taliban have seized on the green-on-blue attacks in their propaganda. Last week, 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].
Mullah Omar, the leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, or the Taliban, addressed the issue of green-on-blue attacks in a statement released yesterday. In the statement, Omar claimed that the Taliban “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, and then warned that “the day is not far away that the invading enemy will flee Afghanistan.” 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 101 ISAF soldiers believed to have been killed by Afghan security personnel since May 2007, a total of 39, 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; 299 Coalition soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan this year, according to iCasualties.org.
Over the past 11 days, there have been seven green-on-blue attacks against ISAF troops, counting today’s attack. In the preceding five attacks, seven 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. And on Aug. 13, a policeman wounded two US soldiers in Nangarhar.
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.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.