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More Green on Blue…

August 13, 2012

By Tim Foxley

Summary: A spate of Green on Blue killings underlines concerns about ANSF morale and capabilities.  Causes and motives remains unclear, although cultural friction and insurgent action are both at play.  ISAF is stuck with this until at least 2014.

a picture that really does speak for itself…

More “Green on Blue” killings in the last few days:

Early on Friday three US Marines were gunned down by a Afghan police commander and his men after accepting an invitation to have dinner.

Later the same day an Afghan civilian working at a NATO base shot dead three more US soldiers.

And on Saturday an Afghan police officer described as an “Taliban infiltrator” shot dead at least 10 of his colleagues in the south-western province of Nimroz.

In terms of stats alone, this contrasts very unfavourably with last year.  In total, 34 ISAF soldiers were killed in Green on Blue incidents in the whole of 2011.  Thus far, just over half way into 2012, in 27 incidents, 37 ISAF members have been killed.  We should of course remember that the ANSF are suffering from Green on Green incidents:

 Afghan National Police member kills 10 colleagues

Saturday, August 11, 2012 – 04:08 PM

A member of the Afghan National Police has killed at least 10 of his fellow policemen in southwestern Afghanistan, an official said.

Shakila Hakimi, a member of the Nimroz provincial council, said today’s shooting occurred at a checkpoint in a remote part of Dilaram district.

She said one policeman, who is believed to have had links with militants, opened fire on his colleagues and was killed in an ensuing gunbattle.

With communications poor in the area, the governor has sent a team to the scene to get more information about what happened.

Analysis and Outlook

It is difficult to know where this issue will go and still hard to say with any certainty whether the problem is predominantly that of culture clash between ISAF and Afghans or deliberate machinations of insurgent groups, although both appear to be strongly at play here.  But information on motives and causes is hard to come by.  Political agendas from all directions, from ISAF to insurgency, distort the analysis – in essence, there are many groups who would prefer you believe one particular explanation and not the other.   See my previous pieces here and here.

Clearly, with each death, trust between trainer and trainee is eroded, even in subtle ways.  ISAF and the Afghan Defence and Interior Ministries will presumably continue to review and fine tune working practises (more effort on screening of recruits perhaps?).  But I’m guessing that most practical improvements or precautions have already been taken.  I am worried that a “bandwagon” or “copycat” effect might be coming into play.  I wonder if, as pressure to recruit, train and demonstrate capability grows (we have seen many negative assessments of progress recently) more poorly educated, culturally sensitive or Taliban sympathising ANSF recruits will be brought in to the system – leading to more incidents.

Only if something major took place, could I conceive of training pausing for a significant period or stopping altogether.  For example:

  • An incident (or more than one) leading to large scale ISAF casualties – perhaps 10 – 20 killed minimum
  • A particular escalation in the kind of attack – a large and/or coordinated group of assailants or a shift in tactics (perhaps heavier weapons and vehicles turned against ISAF)
  • Evidence of growing and widespread planning/penetration by insurgents
  • A highly public shootout between ISAF and ANSF

Barring developments like these however, the bottom line is that ISAF is stuck with the job – stopping the training would be a major admission of defeat and a political and security failure on many levels.  ISAF will have to keep papering over the cracks, looking for the positive spin amidst all the extremely negative and grin and bear it until at least 2014.

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