Afghanistan ‘Green-on-Blue’ Attacks: What the Chain of Command Says (Update)
President Barack Obama speaks about insider attacks in Afghanistan during a news conference at the White House in Washington, D.C., Aug. 20, 2012. Obama said he, senior coalition and Afghan military leaders would continue to intensify measures to thwart the spate of attacks against coalition forces by people wearing Afghan military and police uniforms.
General John Allen, commander of ISAF and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, held a news briefing at the Pentagon this morning via satellite from Kabul.
The briefing and many of the questions touched upon the “green-on-blue” spike, including questions and comments on reports that President Karzai’s office is claiming that, after having studied this problem, they’ve come to the conclusion that it can be attributed mainly to foreign intelligence services that are essentially brainwashing Afghan recruits, and on reports that Ramadan falling this year in the middle of the fighting season may have influenced such attacks.
Read it here
In a previous article on the troubling and vexing issue of so-called “green-on-blue” (Afghan police and security forces on US/Coalition troops) attacks in Afghanistan, we looked at the reaction of a “left-leaning” national newspaper — the New York Times — and of a “right-leaning” national newspaper, the Wall Street Journal.
A couple of days ago, the New York Post — not exactly a liberal publication — also expressed concern:
The recent string of “green-on-blue” (Afghan police and security forces on US/Coalition troops) attacks in Afghanistan are cause for real worry: Not only might the Coalition’s vital mission to provide security training to the Afghan police and army be in trouble, but the country’s entire future might be in question, too.
Without the high-quality training the Afghan security forces desperately will need after Coalition forces leave in 2014 (or maybe sooner), it’s possible Afghanistan will once again fall to the likes of the Taliban.
The Post then proceeds to describe the “treble increase [this year] in ‘insider’ attacks over last year” and the effects they are having on the Coalition forces.
Suggesting that “the fact that America is in all-out campaign mode for the fall elections hasn’t been lost on the insurgents, who hope to hasten a US retreat by going after public opinion here,” the Post concludes that “Now would be an ideal time for presidential leadership on Afghanistan to ensure the success of our mission there — especially preventing the return of the Taliban to power and the revival of al Qaeda.” However, the Post does not suggest ways to ensure such “mission success.”
But what do the Commander in Chief, the Secretary of Defense and the top generals have to say about this?
Here are some excerpts along with links to their full remarks:
WASHINGTON, Aug. 20, 2012 – President Barack Obama said today that he, senior coalition military leaders and their Afghan counterparts will continue intensifying measures to thwart the spate of insider attacks by people wearing Afghan military and police uniforms.
Some of the attackers, the president said, are members of the Afghan security forces, and others have donned Afghan military or police uniforms to carry out their attacks. Coalition forces already have a range of successful vetting measures in play, he added, and pressure needs to remain.
“Part of what we’ve got to do is to make sure that this model works, but it doesn’t make our [troops] more vulnerable,” he added. “In the long term, we will see fewer U.S. casualties and coalition casualties by sticking to our transition plan and making sure that we’ve got the most effective Afghan security force possible.”
WASHINGTON, Aug. 19, 2012 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta spoke with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on the telephone…
The two leaders talked about the challenges of insider attacks against coalition and Afghan forces, and Panetta thanked Karzai for his recent statements condemning such attacks, Little said in a statement.
“They expressed shared concern over this issue and agreed that American and Afghan officials should work even more closely together to minimize the potential for insider attacks in the future…”
Panetta also encouraged Karzai to maintain ongoing rapport with Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, International Security Assistance Forces commander, in efforts to further strengthen ISAF-Afghan cooperation and counter the insider attack threat…
Measures to counter the threat include augmented counterintelligence, more rigorous vetting of Afghan recruits and heightened engagement with village elders, who often play a key role by vouching for Afghan security personnel…
KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 20, 2012 – Afghan leaders are just as concerned as coalition authorities are about insider attacks, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said today after meetings here.
The general said this is the first time in his dozens of trips to the region that Afghans have exhibited this same level of concern.
Dempsey said his meeting with Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, Afghanistan’s defense chief, showed him the Afghans recognize the problem.
“In the past, it’s been us pushing on them to make sure they do more,” Dempsey said at Kabul Air Base. “This time, without prompting, when I met General Karimi, he started with a conversation about insider attacks – and, importantly, insider attacks not just against us, but insider attacks against the Afghans, too.”
Dempsey said he does not anticipate changing the basic way coalition forces work with their Afghan allies, but acknowledged that remains to be determined. “The actual key to this might not be to pull back and isolate ourselves, but [to] reach out and embrace them even more,” the general said. “Again, this is my instinct based on conversations today that I now have to flesh out with our leaders.”
WASHINGTON, Aug. 23, 2012 Speaking with Pentagon reporters from Kabul, Afghanistan, Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, International Security Assistance Forces commander, said he does not believe pulling troops away from their Afghan partners is the best way to go about preventing such attacks.
“At this particular moment, I don’t believe that we need to contemplate reducing our contact with the Afghans,” he said. “What we have learned is that the closer the relationship with them — indeed, the more we can foster a relationship of brotherhood — the more secure that we are.”
Allen said there isn’t enough data on the attackers to “make any kind of a definitive conclusion” about why they happen. “We think the reasons for these attacks are complex,” he said. “Some of them, we do believe, are about infiltration, impersonation [or] coercion. “But some of them are about disagreements — animosity which may have grown between the individual shooter and our forces in general, or a particular grievance. So we look at each one separately.”
The general said ISAF officials are trying to understand each particular case to determine why the attacks may have occurred. Religious fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan could be a factor in some attacks, he added. “It’s a very tough time for these forces. And in particular, this year, Ramadan … fell in the middle of the fighting season during some of the harshest times for the climate in much of the region in which we fight,” he said.
“There are many different and complex reasons for why we think this may have increased. We think Ramadan was a part of it. We don’t think Ramadan was the principal reason, though,” but added that officials have taken steps to minimize Ramadan-related stress. “We were very careful, actually, during Ramadan this year to undertake operations during those times that would not place great physical strain on the troops ? their troops as well as ours ? given the partnership requirement,” he explained.
Allen also said while not diminishing the importance of the insider threat, such attacks represent only a fraction of the interactions between ISAF and Afghan forces.
“It’s important to understand that while every one of these is a tragedy, … every single day in this battle space there are tens of thousands of interactions of our general purpose forces, our special operations forces and our advisory forces with the Afghans,” he said. “And in a vast, vast majority of those instances, the result of that interaction is a growing friendship and a deeper relationship, and that’s playing out in greater success in the battle space.”