The “green-on-blue incidents” in Afghanistan will henceforth be called “insider attacks” by the Pentagon commanders. It is a bold decision to call a spade a spade. The fact is, American blood is being drawn by the Afghans in most unexpected circumstances and the US soldier is unable to make out who is a “good Afghan” and who isn’t.
In a glaring incident last Friday in the western Farah province (which is a relatively calm region) at a graduation ceremony for brand new Afghan policemen being inducted into the force, no sooner than one policeman was handed his official AK-47, he simply turned around and pumped bullets into two of his American trainers who got killed on the spot.
Thirty-five such incidents have taken place so far this year. The frequency of such “green-on-blue incidents” — Afghan personnel in green fatigue killing the Western troops in blue fatigues — is rising. During the past fortnight alone, 10 US soldiers have been killed.
Matters are reaching a point that the “green-on-blue incidents” may become a campaign issue for President Barack Obama in the November election. How can NATO’s “transition” work (handing over the responsibility to the Afghan forces) in a climate of pervasive mutual suspicion about who’s who among the allies?
Obama spoke at length on the issue Monday at a White House press conference, admitting he is “deeply concerned” by the growing war casualties and disclosing that top US commanders are holding “intensive consultations… to make sure that we’re on top of this.” The top US military brass huddled together in Kabul even as Obama spoke.
However, Obama had no practical solution to offer. He generally touched on the importance of “better counterintelligence, making sure that the vetting process for Afghan troops is stronger”; steps to make sure “our troops aren’t in isolated situations that might make them vulnerable”, etc.
Obama’s best hope is that once the “transition” is over, American trainers and soldiers won’t have to be in close contact with the Afghan troops and therefore, “we will see fewer US casualties.”
Clearly, it is one of those exasperating situations endemic to an asymmetrical war. The point is, the “insider attacks” aren’t entirely to be attributed to Taliban infiltration. A strain of “anti-Americanism” is also on display here involving Afghans who may not be Taliban sympathisers, but resent the US occupation for a variety of reasons.
Now, the best way of preventing the “insider attacks” will be by keeping the Afghan soldiers at safe distance. But then, the trust deficit can only increase as the American soldiers move around all the time with loaded guns (which is going to be permitted from now on), viewing all Afghans with suspicion.
Obama is right, the real solution lies in the “indigenization” of the war so that the Afghans will be going about killing each other, while the US forces stay back in the safety and comfort of the military bases and will venture out only for air attacks or special forces operations, which of course require no direct contact with the untrustworthy Afghan soldier.
– August 21, 2012