Multiple shooters involved in latest green-on-blue attack

In the fog of war it can be difficult to discern what is happening as events unfold. It is getting even harder these days in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have sought to infiltrate Afghan security forces and have instigated an increasing number of green-on-blue, or insider, attacks on Coalition forces. [See LWJ Special Report, Green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan: the data.]

On Sept. 29 in the troubled Sayyidabad district of Wardak province, an ISAF soldier and a civilian contractor were killed in what the ISAF press release called “a suspected insider attack.” The very brief release noted that there were also Afghan army casualties, and that a joint investigation of the incident was underway.

Reports in the Afghan press hinted at a more complex story. Pajhwok News said that five people had been killed and four more were wounded. The account was unclear as to whether the other three people killed were Afghan soldiers, or if the soldier or soldiers who opened fire on the Coalition soldiers was killed or captured. Khaama Press reported “heavy clashes” between Afghan and Coalition forces in Sayyidabad district on Sept. 29.

The following day, conflicting accounts of the incident were being offered by various officials. According to The New York Times, Afghan officials said variously that the clash was a result of a misunderstanding, a verbal argument, an attack by a single Afghan soldier, or a mistaken US response to an insurgent mortar shell. Deputy ISAF commander Lt. Gen. Adrian Bradshaw said that “[w]hat was initially reported to have been a suspected insider attack is now understood to possibly have involved insurgent fire.”

Yesterday The Washington Post provided an account that is much more detailed — and, The Long War Journal has been told, more accurate — of the events in Sayyidabad on Sept. 29. The events show that, despite increasing vigilance and stricter measures by both Coalition and Afghan military leadership, including the temporary suspension of joint patrols, the physical threat and psychological damage of the insider attacks remain a potent challenge for the Coalition effort in Afghanistan.

Just two days after the relaxation of a temporary ban on joint Afghan-Coalition patrols, a patrol of about 20 US soldiers met up with a contingent of Afghan soldiers who were manning a checkpoint in the village of Sisay in the Tangi Valley. Sayyidabad district and the Tangi Valley have been heavily infiltrated by the Taliban since US forces withdrew from Combat Outpost Tangi in the spring of 2011 and turned it over to Afghan forces, who promptly abandoned it. In August 2011, the Taliban shot down a US Army Chinook helicopter in Sayyidabad, killing 38 US and Afghan troops, including 17 US Navy SEALS from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group.

The US soldiers had come on Saturday afternoon to conduct a routine collection of biometric data from civilians. Pleasantries were exchanged, and the Afghans offered tea to the Americans. While the biometric data was being collected by the US soldiers, suddenly, “without warning or provocation,” an Afghan soldier “raised his weapon and opened fire — mortally wounding the senior American on the patrol,” according to a US military official.

After the senior US soldier was shot, a firefight broke out between the US and the Afghan troops. The Washington Post reports: “Another Afghan soldier at the checkpoint opened fire on the Americans, killing a US civilian contractor and wounding two other American soldiers. Soon, Afghan soldiers and possibly insurgents began firing at the Americans from several directions.”

An official who had seen the report noted that the Sayyidabad attack represented an unusual type of insider attack in that it involved “multiple attackers from multiple positions.” He continued: “Typically we are talking about a single gunman who acted in a somewhat rogue fashion, but in this case we are talking about an entire Afghan army unit and a large loss of life on both sides.”

This account of the incident in Sayyidabad raises the specter that Afghan army units may be more heavily infiltrated by Taliban operatives and sympathizers than Coalition officials have been willing to admit, and that such infiltration may involve active collusion with insurgent forces on the ground.

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  • Warhawk says:

    In my country, the family members of the traitors get hunted fown and executed. But the US and NATO militaries hold their stupid morality above all else, which is why they cannot win a simple war against these Taliban Muslim ratbags in the last 12 years.

  • JRP says:

    It is extraordinary how deft the Taliban is at devising the simplest of strategies to nullify any goal we have that is a substitute for victory on the ground. There is no way that the present U.S. strategy of turning over our defense to the Afghanistan Army by the 2014 “bugout” date is ever going to work. The Taliban will surge back into Afghanistan, take over the country once again, and make it hospitable for Al Qaeda, who will move back in from its present Pakistani locations for the purpose of planning and executing new and further attacks against the mainland U.S. We are never going to defeat these people for so long as we insist upon warring with them on a limited basis versus an all out basis.

  • Jochen says:

    As in Pakistan, we may suspect that the government of Afghanistan have been waging a dramatic stage fight, losing some expendable pawns to wear the Coalition down in a war of attrition at the same time as they collect vast sums of western aid money. This is a total war in as much as it involves the psychological and economic dimensions more than the military one.

  • Tunde says:

    There may be an upside to the strategic withdrawal from Af-Pak. The US has a four arm military-the USMC and the other three branches. The USMC alone is larger than the UK and Canadian militaries combined and prolly has air assets that rank her within the top ten global air forces. All this at great cost, but virtually all powerless to prevent our strategic defeat. Serious questions must be asked as to how the coalition (not just the US) let this happen. Various theories have been advanced, from the failure of COIN to the mentality of the generalist staff officers whom hold leadership positions to….whatever. But what is clear is this; at least a hundred billion dollars have essentially vanished into an afghan black hole; the afghans increasingly weary of us; and the Talibs are on the verge of a comeback; Pakistani sheltered jihadi groups are ascent in theater and in Pakistan. I don’t belittle the tremendous effort and contribution of our troops but I mourn the futility of the wasted lives in this nation building project.
    With all the technical sophistication the coalition had, we could never understand the human dimension that makes people want to defend home, village, tribe and culture. As Gen Allen said ‘I’m mad as hell !’ (kind sums it up really)

  • irebukeu says:

    Well this certainly seems to be following the trend line of history. I guess the next thing is more incidents like this one followed by entire units turning on Americans then fleeing to the Taliban as heroes. 2014 cannot come quick enough. Come on let these guys home TIME NOW!!!!

  • bohler dieter says:

    it doesn’t make sense to keep prisoners…why not shoot all Taliban without a never ending cycle of arresting and releasing the?


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