Afghan policemen turned on their allies again, killing four more Coalition soldiers in an attack in southern Afghanistan. The green-on-blue, or insider attack, as the Coalition has begun to call such incidents, is the second in two days and the 31st such attack reported this year.
The International Security Assistance Force confirmed that four of its soldiers were killed “in southern Afghanistan following an insider attack suspected to involve members of the Afghan police.”
The deputy chief of police for Zabul province said the attack took place in the Mizan district, and that a policeman was killed and several more were wounded after Coalition troops returned fire, Pajhwok Afghan News reported.
ISAF did not announce the nationality of those killed. US forces make up the bulk of Coalition troops in Zabul.
Today’s attack follows another green-on-blue attack that took place yesterday in Helmand province. A member of the Afghan Local Police opened fire on British troops, killing two soldiers and wounding four more.
Background on green-on-blue attacks
The attacks over the past two days are the latest in the long string of so-called green-on-blue incidents, or insider attacks, in which Afghan security personnel have killed or wounded members of the International Security Assistance Force. There have been nearly 60 such attacks reported since 2008.
Attacks by Afghan forces on Coalition forces have skyrocketed this year. In the first eight months of this year, the number of green-on-blue attacks (31) has more than doubled last year’s total of 15.
Attacks that resulted in deaths of ISAF troops have also surged; they account for 15% of Coalition casualties so far this year. In 2011, green-on-blue attacks accounted for 6%; in 2010, 3%; in 2009, 2%; and in 2008, less than 1%. [For more details and statistics on the green-on-blue attacks, see LWJ Special Report, Green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan: the data.]
ISAF commanders have insisted that most of the attacks are due to cultural differences between Afghan and Western troops. General John Allen, the commander of ISAF, even blamed the spike on Afghans being hungry and irritable due to fasting during Ramadan.
In seeking to account for the rise in insider attacks, ISAF commanders have downplayed the role of Taliban infiltration. Commanders have issued conflicting estimates of the percentage of attacks caused by Taliban infiltration and coercion, ranging from 10% to 25% in recent weeks, to 50% earlier this year.
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. In mid-August, field commanders were told they can increase the number of “guardian angels” depending on the tactical situation.
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. In addition, ISAF commander John Allen has recently directed all US and NATO troops to carry a loaded weapon at all time. Other measures being taken include the adoption of an eight-step vetting process for recruits and revised NATO training requirements. Also, Special Operations Command suspended the training of more than 1,000 Afghan Local Police, a village force that is seen as vital to securing Afghanistan as Coalition forces continue to withdraw.
The Taliban have seized on the green-on-blue attacks in their propaganda, and routinely claim each attack to be a result of infiltration. In early August, 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 on Aug. 16. Omar claimed that the Taliban “cleverly infiltrated in the ranks of the enemy according to the plan given to them last year,” and 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.]
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.