Image Credit: isafmedia (flickr)

Afghanistan's "Green on Blue" Nightmare


With just over two years to go before the completion of the U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan, insider attacks on U.S. and coalition troops have risen to an all-time high. So far in 2012, 37 separate attacks by Afghan soldiers and police have left 53 troops dead in so-called “green on blue” incidents- those where coalition forces are attacked by a member of the Afghan security forces- including two this weekend. The pace of green-on-blue attacks has accelerated sharply: between 2007 and 2009, just 14 coalition troops fell victim to insider attacks, but since 2010, according to a tally by The Guardian, 106 coalition troops were killed in 63 attacks.

Another study, this one by the New America Foundation, identified 116 killed and 88 wounded in green-on-blue attacks since 2003. Meanwhile, Reuters estimates that insider attacks account for 20% of all combat related deaths that coalition forces have suffered in 2012.

The rising pattern of green-on-blue incidents has set off alarm bells from Kabul to Washington and London. By mid-summer the attacks had already reached epidemic proportions, when a string of attacks left 10 U.S. troops dead in a two-week span, after which the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, traveled to Kabul to meet with senior commanders and Afghan officials to discuss what was emerging as a crisis.

By August, a series of emergency steps had been implemented to reduce or eliminate insider attacks, according to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. Among them, stricter vetting of Afghan recruits, beefed-up counterintelligence teams, mandatory interviews for Afghan soldiers returning from leave, a new “warning and reporting system for insider threats,” including a process for anonymous tips, and more. Still, in early September, U.S. Special Operations forces suspended training the particularly troublesome Afghan Local Police (ALP) after the August 17 shooting death of two American special ops troops by ALP members.

Anthony Cordesman, the veteran CSIS military analyst, said in the report that “green on blue and other politically oriented strikes on both foreign and Afghan targets may be giving the insurgents back the overall momentum in the war.” That is true, he pointed out, even though it isn’t clear how many insider attacks are Taliban-inspired, and how many result from personal grudges and grievances or generalized anger against the U.S./ISAF coalition on the part of Afghan forces.

Major Lowen Gil Marquez, Phil Army
October 11, 2012 at 06:24

The green and blue nightmares to coalition forces of the United Nation will not going to reach the limitless death of our soldiers if don't have a wide intelligence lapses both to the leadership of UN forces and Afghan security forces in Afghanistan, the recruitment, training and daily activities of each suspected afghan security forces must be up to date journal to monitor the future disaster might happen…

October 5, 2012 at 20:20

Its all B.S.
The USA lost 1000 Texas soldiers in 30 minutes in 1944.
Its a belief that the US cant win, now we all know its B.S.
They can win, even with horrific numbers like Monte Casino.
F* them, stand up and win this game.

October 5, 2012 at 18:41

Mod – The Diplomat, why are my comments blocked ? Because the truth hurts ?

October 5, 2012 at 18:36

The insider attacks are a very very good reason for Nato to pull out from Afghanistan lock, stock and barrel. Saves precious lives and saves lots of money.  The money saved from this particular action can later be used to invade the whole of China (Operation East Asian Eagle Guardian).

Arthur Borges
October 4, 2012 at 22:59

The distinction between political and personal grievances is irrelevant: the Coran says any guest is God's envoy and should be treated as such. As a result, Muslim hospitality is exquisite but, to put it very simply: they just have this thing about gatecrashers.
When the US came in, it took down the Taliban.
When the US leaves, it will hand it back to the Taliban.

October 3, 2012 at 03:21

Uhm No. Sharia Law is very clear on blasphemy and infidels both. Try listening to the Jihadists. They really aren't shy about what they believe. Try learning, Google 'Blasphemy Law" and you will suddenly become informed. The last time Westerners followed blasphemy laws it was the Dark Ages. A coincidence that the ME resembles the Dark Ages?

October 2, 2012 at 15:22

Reap what you sow I guess.

Gurpreet S Goraya
October 2, 2012 at 14:33

Nothing could be more preposterous than the idea that 'blowing your nose in public' or even 'showing the soles of feet', and similar cultural transgressions could, even if repeated over a period of time, lead an Afghanistani to shoot you! The reason for the 'green on blue' attacks is pure and simple hatred for the people who bombed villages and killed civilians with impunity. 

October 2, 2012 at 13:55

It is an unwinnable war. If world's best armies cannot defeat the Taliban, how can the Afghan army do it? Starting from 2015, Afghan government will side with the Taliban just to remain relevant. Green on Blue attacks will only increase.

Stewart Webb
October 2, 2012 at 03:04

I co-authored a report in Canada last year that outlined the threats and the likelihood of the increase of 'green on blue' attacks and was featured in the Canadian media nationally.

Share your thoughts

Your Name
Your Email
required, but not published
Your Comment

Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief