2 Coalition troops killed in insider attack in Afghanistan

Two Coalition soldiers were killed by two gunmen dressed in Afghan military uniforms today at the base formerly known as Camp Bastion in Washir district in Helmand province. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the two soldiers who were killed may have been members of US special operations forces who were recently deployed to Afghanistan. The insider or green-on-blue attack, where a member of the Afghan security forces or a Taliban infiltrator kills Coalition personnel, is the third of its kind recorded this year.

From The New York Times:

Details of the attack on the NATO soldiers were conflicting at best. The nationalities of the soldiers were not immediately clear. The statement released by the American-led coalition said the service members died when two men wearing Afghan uniforms opened fire on their vehicle. The attackers were killed when coalition forces returned fire, the statement said.

However, Afghan officials in Helmand said that the two NATO soldiers had been part of a group of Americans who had arrived at Camp Bastion earlier in the week. The officials said that the soldiers had been fired on by Afghan troops who suspected them of being Taliban fighters posing in army uniforms, a tactic the Taliban have been using in recent months.

“The guards on duty asked them for identification, but the American special forces seem to have ignored their warning,” said the head of the provincial council’s security committee, Bashir Ahmad Shakir. “The aftermath was an exchange of fire.”

The Taliban has not claimed credit for today’s insider attack, but the group has devoted significant effort into attempts to kill NATO troops and foreigners by infiltrating the ranks of Afghan security forces. Former Taliban emir Mullah Omar affirmed this in a statement released on Aug. 16, 2012, when he claimed that the group had “cleverly infiltrated in the ranks of the enemy according to the plan given to them last year [2011],” and he urged government officials and security personnel to defect to the Taliban as a matter of religious duty. Omar also noted that the Taliban had 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.]

Overall number of insider attacks still unknown

Six Coalition personnel and contractors have been killed in the three insider attacks reported so far this year. In April, an Afghan soldier killed an American soldier in an attack in Nangarhar. And in January, a Taliban infiltrator killed three US contractors in an attack at Kabul International Airport.

There were four insider attacks recorded in Afghanistan in 2014, according to The Long War Journal’s statistics. The number of reported green-on-blue attacks on Coalition personnel in Afghanistan has dropped steeply since a peak of 44 in 2012. In 2013, there were 13 such attacks. [For in-depth information, see LWJ special report, Green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan: the data.]

The decline in attacks may be due to several factors, including the continuing drawdown of Coalition personnel, reduced partnering with Afghan forces, and the adoption of heightened security measures in interactions between Coalition and Afghan forces.

However, many insider attacks remain unreported. If an attack by Afghan personnel does not result in a death or injury, and it is not reported in the press, the Coalition will not release a statement on the incident.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which was disbanded at the end of 2014, told The Long War Journal in March 2012 that “these statistics,” the number of attacks that did not result in a casualty, are “classified.”

“[A]ttacks by ANSF on Coalition Forces … either resulting in non-injury, injury or death … these stats as a whole (the total # attacks) are what is classified and not releasable,” Lieutenant Colonel Jimmie Cummings, ISAF’s former Press Desk Chief, told The Long War Journal. Cummings said that ISAF is “looking to declassify this number.”

Three years later, number has not been declassified.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • mike merlo says:

    most unfortunate

  • Jo Flemings says:

    Thank you, Mr. Roggio, for reporting on this- it is hard to get facts and info anywhere else about these things.

  • Frank Dunn says:

    An American led coalition doesn’t know the nationality of the two U.S. soldiers killed at a U.S. base? Perhaps American senior officers and President Obama don’t want to assume that the two U.S. soldiers who were murdered and whose loved ones were notified of the tragedy were actually Americans. These two men who died in an essentially abandoned war could have been undocumented aliens from Mexico or Guatemala for all the White House knows. Would be wrong to jump to conclusions.

    The loss of these two brave men will be mourned by their comrades, their friends and, most of all, their loved ones. Sadly, neither Obama, who readily speaks volumes about the deaths of thugs, nor Susan Rice, who lavished praise on an Army deserter, will utter a word about the two.

  • Jeff Edelman says:

    If we had known then what we know now, Bill, you might have been able to hit up Hillary about getting those classified documents.


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