An Afghan policeman opened fire on Coalition soldiers operating in Helmand province earlier today, killing two British soldiers. Today’s killing of Coalition forces marks the 40th green-on-blue, or insider attack, in Afghanistan that has been reported so far this year.
The International Security Assistance Force confirmed that two of its soldiers were killed in today’s attack, but did not state the nationality of those killed or the location of the attack.
“An individual wearing the uniform of an Afghan policeman turned his weapon against International Security Assistance Force service members in southern Afghanistan today, killing two,” the NATO command said in a press release. “The incident is currently under investigation.”
Afghan officials said that the attack took place in Helmand province, and two British soldiers were killed, Pajhwok Afghan News reported. The Afghan policeman escaped after murdering the British soldiers.
The British Ministry of Defence later announced that two soldiers from 1st Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles, “were shot and killed at a checkpoint in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province.” The statement did not provide details on how the two soldiers were killed.
The Taliban later claimed credit for the attack in Helmand. “An infiltrator in the Afghan police has killed three British soldiers in the Babaje Malgir area of Greshk district and escaped carrying with him a foreign weapon,” a Taliban spokesman said in a text message that was received by TOLONews.
Today’s green-on-blue attack is the second thought to have occurred in Helmand province in the past week. On Oct. 24, a Royal Marine and a British female soldier on a foot patrol in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province were shot dead by Afghan policemen in an incident that is currently under investigation. The Taliban, which have executed multiple insider attacks against Coalition forces, have also claimed the attack.
A significant number of the green-on-blue attacks have taken place in Helmand province, according to statistics maintained by The Long War Journal. More green-on-blue attacks have occurred in Helmand province than in any other of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. At least 17 of the 66 recorded attacks have taken place in Helmand since January 2008; and 32 of the 122 deaths have occurred in Helmand.
There have been 40 green-on-blue attacks reported so far this year, resulting in the deaths of 59 ISAF military and civilian personnel. The green-on-blue attacks now account for more than 16 percent of ISAF’s casualties so far this year. Last year, such attacks accounted for 6 percent of ISAF’s casualties. In 2010, green-on-blue attacks made up just 2 percent of ISAF’s casualties. See LWJ report, Green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan: the data, for more information.
Insider attacks a key part of Taliban strategy
Today’s attack in Helmand province comes one week after Taliban emir Mullah Omar released an Eid al-Adha message that urged followers to “[i]increase Increase your efforts to expand the area of infiltration in the ranks of the enemy and to bring about better order and array in the work.” The statement continued: “We call on the Afghans who still stand with the stooge regime to turn to full-fledged cooperation with their Mujahid people like courageous persons in order to protect national interests and to complete independence of the country. Jihadic activities inside the circle of the State militias are the most effective stratagem. Its dimension will see further expansion, organization and efficiency if God willing.”
Omar had previously addressed the issue of green-on-blue attacks at length 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.]
As insider attacks continue to spike, Coalition officials are starting to acknowledge that the Taliban are behind a larger proportion of the attacks, and ISAF has intensified its efforts against the perpetrators. Many of the attackers appear to come from the eastern Afghan provinces, a BBC reporter wrote in September, where Taliban influence is prevalent. And in early October, ISAF commanders admitted that attackers from Pakistan with links to the Taliban and its subgroup, the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, were significantly involved in the attacks, the Associated Press reported.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.