It was a grim weekend in Afghanistan. A surprisingly sophisticated insurgent attack wiped out a half-dozen U.S. warplanes, green-on-blue attacks continued, as did mistaken allied attacks on women and girls collecting firewood. Meanwhile, the U.S. footprint in the country continued to shrink.
Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, reacted sharply to the latest insider attacks. In an eyebrow-raising description, he called them “a very serious threat to the campaign.”
Fifty-one allied troops have been killed so far this year by their purported Afghan allies or militants wearing uniforms of the Afghan security forces, including six over the weekend. “You can’t whitewash it,” Dempsey said “We can’t convince ourselves that we just have to work harder to get through it — something has to change.”
What didn’t change was the litany of bad news:
– Insurgents continued launching both insider – and outsider – attacks. At least one Afghan policeman killed four U.S. troops in the southern part of the country early Sunday.
– In a brazen assault, 15 insurgents clad in U.S. Army uniforms blasted their way through the perimeter of isolated and heavily-defended Camp Bastion in southern Afghanistan late Friday before peppering aircraft based there with small-arms fire and rifle-propelled grenades. Two Marines died in the attack.
“The insurgents, organized into three teams, penetrated at one point of the base’s perimeter fence,” the International Security Assistance Force said. They “appeared to be well-equipped, trained and rehearsed.” The insurgents destroyed six Marine AV-8B jump jets and significantly damaged two others — $200 million worth of aircraft when they were purchased years ago, closer to a half-billion to replace. Three refueling stations were destroyed and six hangars were damaged.
Fourteen of the attackers were killed in the assault; one was taken into custody.
– A NATO air strike killed eight women Saturday night in Laghman province, Afghan officials said. An allied spokesman said civilian casualties may have occurred in the strike, which he said also killed a large number of militants.
– The U.S. continued its pullout, planning on cutting the Pentagon troops presence to 68,000 by month’s end. That will signal the end of President Obama’s surge, which added 33,000 troops to the fight over the past three years. Nearly 10,000 U.S. troops have left Helmand province, home to Camp Bastion, in the past several months.
– In one bit of good news, Prince Harry was at Camp Bastion when it was attacked, but wasn’t harmed.