An Afghan policeman killed two British soldiers and wounded four more today before being killed himself in return fire in the southern province of Helmand. The attack is 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.
“An individual believed to be an Afghan Local Police member turned his weapon against International Security Assistance Force service members in southern Afghanistan today, killing two,” the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release. “An ISAF service member returned fire, killing the attacker.”
ISAF did not state the nationality of the soldiers who were killed, but TOLONews reported that the troops were British. The attack took place in the Gereshk district.
At the beginning of September, training for more than 1,000 new recruits for the Afghan Local Police was suspended by the US’s Special Operations Command after five of its soldiers were killed over the course of a week in August. The Afghan Local Police force is an initiative that provides support to Afghans so they can provide security for their own villages. The ALP have been described as vital to ISAF’s strategy. The ALP are to provide security in key districts as foreign troops continue withdrawing from Afghanistan.
Today’s green-on-blue attack, or insider attack, as ISAF has begun calling them, occurred close to Camp Bastion, where the Taliban executed a suicide assault last evening. A team of 20 jihadists penetrated the perimeter of Camp Bastion, killed two US Marines, and damaged several military aircraft, a hangar, and buildings.
Camp Bastion was also the scene of a green-on-blue attack in March, when an Afghan interpreter hijacked an SUV and then attempted to run down a group of US Marines, including a major general, at the airfield. The attack took place just before Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s plane was scheduled to land. The attacker crashed his truck and then set himself on fire; the attacker’s brother and father, also interpreters, were both detained, as was another person also said to be an interpreter. One British soldier was wounded during the attack.
The last green-on-blue attack took place on Aug. 28 on a base in neighboring Uruzgan province. An Afghan soldier gunned down three Australian soldiers and wounded two more. The attacker, a recent recruit named as Sergeant Hikmatullah, climbed over the base’s fence after the attack and ran away.
Helmand province has seen the greatest number of green-on-blue attacks. Of the 58 reported attacks since 2008 in Afghanistan, 16, or 28%, have occurred in Helmand. A significant number of green-on-blue attacks have also taken place in Kandahar province, where there have been nine attacks, or nearly 16% of the total number.
Background on green-on-blue attacks
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 (30) has more than doubled last year’s total of 14.
Attacks that resulted in deaths of ISAF troops have also surged; they account for 14% 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 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.