Battleland

What U.S. Troops Are Doing to Curb Insider Attacks

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Jose CABEZAS / AFP-Getty Images

An Afghan National Army soldier patrols with a U.S. soldier from Apache team, Task force Geronimo in the village of Karizona, Sabari District in Khost Province, Afghanistan on August 5, 2012.

On Tuesday, Pentagon leaders said they’d prefer to call the rash of “green on blue attacks” – where members of the Afghan security forces kill their U.S. and allied partners – “insider attacks” instead. They detailed a roster of steps they’re taking to clamp down on the betrayals, which not only kill Americans but sow distrust that makes U.S. training of Afghan troops much tougher and less efficient.

Calling them “green on blue” attacks “understates the effect that this is having on the [Afghan National Security Forces] itself,” said Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “You know, they’re suffering casualties from the same trend that we’re suffering from.”

Alas, the suffering continues: on Friday, a freshly-minted Afghan policeman – having just gotten his weapon before beginning target practice  – shot and killed a pair of U.S. troops involved in his training. It happened in far western Afghanistan, well away from the violence that has wracked the southern and eastern parts of the country. “I’ve been very concerned about these incidents,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday, “because of the lives lost and because of the potential damage to our partnership efforts.”

There have been seven such attacks across the country in the past two weeks, killing 36 allied troops. The concern inside the Pentagon is this: such attacks rarely happened in the first years of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, but they are now becoming common.

Unfortunately, they constitute a powerful weapon: instead of the anonymous, standoff slaughter of a roadside bomb, insider attacks make clear there are deadly forces growing inside the Afghan security forces U.S. taxpayers have spent $52 billion training and outfitting. There is plainly a slice inside the Afghan security forces willing and able to train – and become “friends” – with U.S. troops while awaiting an opportunity to kill as many as possible. “There’s something different about these kinds of killings,” an Army officer says. “They’re up close and personal.”

ISAF

Militarily, the attacks are insignificant. Nearly 2,000 U.S. deaths in Afghanistan in 10 years is 200 annually; insider attacks are a tiny fraction of that total. As of Tuesday, Panetta said there had been 31 Afghans involved in such attacks out of a force of 350,000, which works out to 0.009% of the total force. “Our forces continue to partner closely in the field, and they have not let these incidents disrupt those operations,” Panetta said.

A report issued Thursday by the four U.S. inspectors general whose agencies are most involved in Afghanistan didn’t even list such attacks as one of the “challenges and risks” associated with building Afghan security forces. “The major risk areas include requirements, acquisition planning, training, financial management and accountability, and corruption,” the report said. But anything that hampers training will leave a less-prepared Afghan force in charge when the U.S. pulls all of its combat troops from the country by 2015.

But the public-relations potential of the insider attacks – their ability to sour the U.S. military, U.S. politicians, and the American public on the war – is a far greater danger than the attacks’ military impact. That accounts for the evolving U.S. explanation as to why they are happening:

– The attacks stem from personal grievances more than support for the Taliban.
– Many such attacks are carried out by insurgents wearing stolen Afghan security-forces uniforms and not by loyal Afghan troops themselves.
– The U.S.-led military campaign is working so well against the Taliban they they cannot fight the U.S. and its Afghan allies in the traditional ways of war, so they have developed this insidious tactic.
– Well, not really. It’s not the Taliban doing most of the killing. “Our enemies have attempted to undermine the trust between the coalition and Afghan forces, and in particular, they have tried to take credit for a number of so-called green-on-blue or insider attacks that have taken place this fighting season,” Panetta said Tuesday.

They have tried to take credit, suggesting that they’re simply piggybacking on crazed local Afghans.

Yet Panetta gives them credit moments later. “One of the reasons the Taliban is targeting in this manner, we believe, is the success that our Afghan partners are having on the battlefield,” the defense secretary said. “The reality is the Taliban has not been able to regain any territory lost, and so they’re resorting to these kinds of attacks to create havoc.”

Panetta, who had alluded to recent mass shootings in the U.S. earlier in Tuesday’s briefing with reporters, obliquely brought them up again when he was asked what is motivating these attacks. “It’s clear that there’s kind of no one source that is producing these kinds of attacks,” he responded. “Some are individuals who, for one reason or another, are upset and suddenly take it out. We’ve seen that here in the United States oftentimes.”

Taliban leader Mullah Omar took credit for the increased attacks in a statement posted on insurgent websites Thursday and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. “Many Afghans in the rank and files of the enemy have shown a willingness to help the (Taliban) in a shrewd manner,” the statement said. “As a result, the foreign invaders and their allies at their military centers and bases are suffering crushing blows by these heroic soldiers.”

Marine General John Allen, the top U.S. and allied commander in Afghanistan, responded to Omar with a quick web statement of his own. “The pride of the Afghan people has been smeared by killers who pose as Soldiers and police, yet they represent the worst of humanity,” he said. “Today, the Afghan Army and National Police are trying to build a better future for the Afghan people, yet Omar wants to stop these efforts. Coalition forces are here to help the people; we have no other reason for being here other than to make Afghanistan a stable country, founded on educated and healthy citizens.”

Allen is taking the following steps to curb such insider attacks, Panetta said:

– “First, to increase the intelligence presence, so that we can try to get better information with regards to these kinds of potential attacks.
– “Also, to increase counterintelligence, to have people trained in counterintelligence to be part of these units so that they can, as well, identify those threats.
– “We have a thorough vetting process. It’s an eight-step process. We’re doing forensics on the particular instances that occur in order to make sure, you know, how that process — that vetting process operated and what we can do to improve it.
– “Implementing a notification process, so that when we get information we can alert people to the threats.
– “Training requirements — we’re not only implementing training requirements with regards to our forces, but the Afghans are doing the same to try to identify these people.
– “We have a guardian angel program which involves identifying one individual who stands to the side so that he can watch people’s backs and hopefully identify people that would be involved in those attacks.”

Allen also is meeting with Afghan village elders. “These are the people who usually vouch for individuals,” Panetta said. “They have to sign something that vouches for the character of individuals. And he is going back to them to ensure that that’s being done properly.”

It’s not like the Afghan troops aren’t being screened. “They’ve discharged hundreds of soldiers who did indicate that some of these young men had the capability to be radicalized, either by virtue of travel back and forth to Pakistan, by literature, by language, by music,” Dempsey said. “There are indicators that we track.”

The threat has become serious enough that Allen is convening a conference of all allied generals and senior enlisted personnel to try to devise new methods of grappling with the insider-attack challenge.

“There’s far more stories about the positive relationship than there is about this particular insider-attack trend,” Dempsey said. “But it is one that we have to remain seized with and focused on.” Such attacks generate positive news, he noted, if in a rancid way: “In one of the recent green-on-blues, which we now try to refer to as insider attacks, it was actually an Afghan special operations forces lieutenant and a sergeant who came to the aid of their American counterparts and lost their lives in the process of coming to their aid.”

16 comments
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popsiq
popsiq

The Afghans, unsophisticated savages that they are,  have baffled better brains than Mr. Panetta and his "greatest force for good on earth." 

For one thing, as they complain, they've never been allowed to 'take the gloves off' and fight the kind of war that needs to be fought to win those hearts and minds. The war they have been fighting has been nasty enough to alienate most Afghans but not nasty enough to cow the Taliban. At the same time the averge US soldier knows little more about Afghanistan, or what they're trying to do there, than when they invaded in those heady days of vict'ry - and that was done in rank ignorance.

Now the average joe has to worry about his back all the time, off base as well as on, even with an angel - for who's covering him?

Mr. Panetta himself requires an absence of loaded weapons when he's visiting the troops - especially his own.

mahboob_1948
mahboob_1948

American Military should read about all the British Experience in Afghanistan during the British Colonial times in the Indian Sub Continent.Hope they don't make mistakes like them.Afghans are a people that have not changed since then.

popsiq
popsiq

 Why would they want to do that? Every swinging dick knows the Brits aren't the warfighters their grandfathers were.  Geez, they were even willing to let the village elders run things in Helmand.

Until some West Point grad realized that was a form of 'giving up' and started a war that still rages 7 years later.

polnick
polnick

Sunni and Shiite gang leaders must be treated fairly. Each must be given a slice of turf which is protected by the local police. Saudi Wahhabi`s invaders are creating a new order, talented gang leaders will soon be appointed and given turf. Local police will become border guards, making sure Sunni and Shiite gangs stay within their own boundaries.

S_V
S_V

"Militarily, the attacks are insignificant. Nearly 2,000 U.S. deaths in Afghanistan in 10 years is 200 annually; insider attacks are a tiny fraction of that total."

 

A tiny fraction?  Insignifican?  Not any more, they aren't...  The historical overall loss rate of 200 per year amounts to an average of 4 every week, right?   36 deaths in the last two weeks represents an increase in the kill rate of over a factor of 4 during this time period, attributable only to insider attacks. 

Another way of looking at it:  historically, on average, it would have taken nine weeks to lose 36 troops; we just racked up that many losses - and just from insider attacks - in two weeks.

So, "the attacks are insignificant" only if they stop now.  If they continue at this success rate, US troops will suffer an average year's quota of losses in 11 weeks.  "the attacks are insignificant?"  Really?

shep5557
shep5557

The malignant narcissist-in-chief 1) given $1.5 Bil. to Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. 2) $192 million to the Palestinian terrorists. 3) didn't back up our troops during Qur'an burnings leading to more of our troops deaths. 4) maintains the rules of engagement of "don't fire unless fired upon" 5) went to Afghan, bragged about killing Bin laden, stirred up Afghans thus killing more of our troops. 6) gave operational details to press on two occasions ( bin laden capture, and Yemen bomber) thus outing the missions personnel. 7) requiring our spec ops troops to train and convey secret methods of catching terrorists to 12,000 Muslim troops including Pakistani, Afghanistan, Egyptian which will allow them to divulge secrets to other terrorists. These betrayals are nothing short of treason and are designed to send our troops into a battle to be slaughtered.

Thanks to the above evil half measures, trying to be liked around the world, those leaders who don't want to get either their hands or their conscience dirty, and those who support them and want to stay insulated from the same, our grandchildren's grandchildren will wake up one day finding themselves wearing hijabs and kneeling 5 times a day to pray. I hope all of you are comfortable with your personal sensibilities of righteousness. We wouldn't want to look around the world to see Islamist moving into neighborhoods, taking over local governments, and secretly imposing Sharia law. Hence, the "no go zones" in Europe and the "Honor killings" in every supposed free country including Europe, and America. And please Americans, don't look around to see the teaching of the Arabic language and culture, the Qu'ran, and Sharia not only in Muslim schools, but in American schools. Don't look at the election of Islamist Senators, the appointment of Islamist judges, and the increased court cases of someone insulting the teachings of the Qu'ran, or Mohammad, and the honor killings. Let's avoid looking at our own "no go zone" Dearborn, Mi. where non-Islamist are harassed and arrested if they happen to say the wrong thing. Let's turn a blind eye to all the signs so we can continue to feel good about ourselves and not have to confront what is staring at us. Let's simply say, "well they're not breaking any laws". Record in your diaries, so your grandchildren can see your involvement in their enslavement. Be proud. Choke on it.

shep5557
shep5557

The malignant narcissist-in-chief  1) given $1.5 Bil. to Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. 2) $192 million to the Palestinian terrorists. 3) didn't back up our troops during Qur'an burnings leading to more of our troops deaths. 4) maintains the rules of engagement of "don't fire unless fired upon" 5) went to Afghan, bragged about killing Bin laden, stirred up Afghans thus killing more of our troops. 6) gave operational details to press on two occasions ( bin laden capture, and Yemen bomber) thus outing the missions personnel. 7) requiring our spec ops troops to train and convey secret methods of catching terrorists to 12,000 Muslim troops including Pakistani, Afghanistan, Egyptian which will allow them to divulge secrets to other terrorists. These betrayals are nothing short of treason and are designed to send our troops into a battle to be slaughtered. 

Thanks to the above evil half measures, trying to be liked around the world, those leaders who don't want to get either their hands or their conscience dirty, and those who support them and want to stay insulated from the same, our grandchildren's grandchildren will wake up one day finding themselves wearing hijabs and kneeling 5 times a day to pray. I hope all of you are comfortable with your personal sensibilities of righteousness. We wouldn't want to look around the world to see Islamist moving into neighborhoods, taking over local governments, and secretly imposing Sharia law. Hence, the "no go zones" in Europe and the "Honor killings" in every supposed free country including Europe, and America. And please Americans, don't look around to see the teaching of the Arabic language and culture, the Qu'ran, and Sharia not only in Muslim schools, but in American schools. Don't look at the election of Islamist Senators, the appointment of Islamist judges, and the increased court cases of someone insulting the teachings of the Qu'ran, or Mohammad, and the honor killings. Let's avoid looking at our own "no go zone"  Dearborn, Mi. where non-Islamist are harassed and arrested if they happen to say the wrong thing. Let's turn a blind eye to all the signs so we can continue to feel good about ourselves and not have to confront what is staring at us. Let's simply say, "well they're not breaking any laws". Record in your diaries, so your grandchildren can see your involvement in their enslavement. Be proud. Choke on it. 

Richard Anderson
Richard Anderson

Most Afghans would have the US and everyone else leave their country. We should not spend another dime there. There is no real point to this mission and what we have done is a failure. No one has the guts to say so on a national level. They would be called " soft of terrorism "  Terrorism is something we make by being there in the first place. Following the money will show why we are there. 

gail getler
gail getler

the insider attacks are in part a product of the Taliban holding the afghan recruits family hostage to do their dirty work. some how the afghan soldiers family must be protected from this incursion and threat. 

popsiq
popsiq

Move the whole family onto the base.  Better still, move them all to America for safety. That's the ticket!

Not.

Jamie S.
Jamie S.

"The U.S.-led military campaign is working so well against the Taliban they they cannot fight the U.S. and its Afghan allies in the traditional ways of war, so they have developed this insidious tactic."

Ah, yes - the "unfairness" objection, raised throughout history by every power ever to rise on the basis of perfecting a particular method when confronted by anyone whose alternative method proved effective.

History shows that the ancient Greeks made such objections to archers as "unfair" to the Phalanx.  The Europeans made such claims versus the Indians.  The British said so of poison gas in 1914; the Americans said it in Vietnam.  It goes on, and on, and on, the inability of the military leadership to understand that their forces' perfection of preferred tactics is irrelevant when ineffective as a means of accomplishing policy objectives.

And indeed, we are NOT accomplishing those objectives.  With nearly 500,000 troops under arms in Afghanistan between U.S. and Afghan-raised forces, we can't prevent bombings and shootings occurring anywhere in the country.

popsiq
popsiq

 It sure beats 'stepping out into the street' to let the Apache jocks gun you down from 5 miles away - 'man to man'.

Eric Robertson
Eric Robertson

Hint:  Use the sales technique "Customer Buy-In" to get the Afghans to invest in something tied to their government, but local.

When I was in Afghanistan, we did a lot of things for them (for free) making them ashamed and ultimately resentful towards us.   

People protect what they feel they helped build.

naksuthin
naksuthin

1. We spent 804 billion dollars in Iraq and didn't even get a "thank you card"..or a drop of oil

2. We spent 90 billion dollars on reconstruction in Afghanistan to "win hearts and minds"...and they shoot our soldiers

3. We spent 2.5 billion dollars sending CURIOSITY to MARS, a

technological feat that set space exploration ahead years, sent a

message to the world that the US is still the leader in technology....

and will provide us with a wealth of scientific data for years to come. 

PLUS not a single life was lost, no buildings were destroyed, and no

refugees had to flee their homes.

It's time the US started spending MORE money building a positive

image, making new medical and scientific discoveries , and advancing

human achievement ........and spend LESS money trying to become the

policeman of the world

Jamie S.
Jamie S.

I agree, and interestingly enough, so would the military-industrial complex if granted the same fat profit margins that they enjoy for the production of war materiel.  The problem is that the average American voter will agree to pouring these billions and indeed trillions into endless production of tanks and planes to re-fight the Second World War should it recur, but that same voter questions why it makes sense to build a Mars colony or a Moon base because "we have problems right here" (which under no circumstances will they agree to address either).