Data last updated on Aug. 31, 2012
Attacks on Coalition forces by Afghan forces — the so-called green-on-blue attacks — are emerging as a major threat in the 11-year-old war in Afghanistan. These attacks from within have increased dramatically within the past two years, and so far this year account for 14% of Coalition casualties.
As the United States prepares to complete the withdrawal of its combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the US military and its Coalition partners are increasingly shifting security responsibilities to Afghan forces. The success of this security transition depends greatly on the strength and competence of the Afghan military and police. Accordingly, the training of the newly-mustered Afghan forces has become a linchpin of Coalition strategy, which in turn hinges upon the work of trainers with Afghan security forces. This situation has placed Coalition troops at increasing risk as the drawdowns continue and Taliban efforts to infiltrate Afghan forces are being ramped up.
In recent months, attacks by Afghan forces on Coalition forces have surged; they account for 14% of Coalition casualties so far this year. In 2011, green-on-blue attacks accounted for 6%; in 2010, 3%; in 2009, 2%; and in 2008, less than 1%.
Although NATO commanders have stated that an estimated 90% of the attacks are due to cultural differences and personal enmity, the attacks began spiking in 2011, just after President Barack Obama announced the plan to pull the surge forces, end combat operations in 2014, and shift security to Afghan forces. The Taliban also have claimed to have stepped up efforts at infiltrating the Afghan National Security Forces.
Disagreeing with NATO’s analysis, the Afghan government has blamed the problem on “infiltration by foreign spy agencies,” including those of “neighboring countries,” The Guardian reported. The Afghan government also predicted that vetting of recruits to the Afghan military and police would soon improve as the forces were reaching their target capacity after a rapid buildup.
While cultural and personal differences may play a role in the increase in attacks, Taliban infiltration and defections by Afghan security personnel who have decided to ingratiate themselves with the Taliban by attacking NATO forces likely play a far more significant role in the green-on-blue attacks than NATO admits. Without a complete study of the attacks, including those that do not result in casualties, it is impossible to have a full understanding as to what motivates Afghan security personnel to turn on their foreign partners.
In May of this year, ISAF commander General John Allen said that about half of the green-on-blue attacks have been carried out by Taliban infiltrators. In August, General Allen said that approximately 25% of the green-on-blue attacks were due to Taliban infiltration and/or coercion of Afghan forces, according to The New York Times. The Taliban routinely take credit for the attacks.
The US military has become so concerned with the green-on-blue attacks that it has ordered units to designate “guardian angels” in each unit whose job is to provide security for troops working with Afghans. In mid-August, field commanders were told they can increase the number of “guardian angels” depending on the tactical situation, Reuters reports.
The surge in green-on-blue attacks has prompted the US military to expand its counterintelligence capability in Afghanistan at the battalion level and above, according to Reuters. In addition, ISAF commander John Allen has recently directed all US and NATO troops to carry a loaded weapon at all times, Fox News reported. Other measures being taken include the adoption of an eight-step vetting process for recruits and revised NATO training requirements.
Announcing these changes, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Afghan forces were also trying to address the problem and had already discharged “hundreds of soldiers” suspected of having been radicalized. The Telegraph reports that the Afghan army has added 300 intelligence specialists to help detect infiltrators, and that 75 percent of the force will be reinvestigated and enrolled in a biometrics database.
Although as a matter of policy ISAF does not report on attacks that do not result in deaths, this trend seems to be changing, as two of the three attacks reported in July involved situations in which soldiers were wounded but not killed.
The Taliban have seized on the green-on-blue attacks in their propaganda, and routinely claim each attack to be a result of infiltration. In early August, the Taliban released a video of two Afghan soldiers who attacked ISAF soldiers in Kunar and Uruzgan [see Threat Matrix report, Observations on Taliban video ‘welcoming’ rogue ANA soldiers].
Mullah Omar, the leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, or the Taliban, addressed the issue of green-on-blue attacks in a statement released on Aug. 16. Omar claimed that the Taliban “cleverly infiltrated in the ranks of the enemy according to the plan given to them last year,” and urged government officials and security personnel to defect and join the Taliban as a matter of religious duty. He also noted that the Taliban have created the “Call and Guidance, Luring and Integration” department, “with branches … now operational all over the country,” to encourage defections. [See Threat Matrix report, Mullah Omar addresses green-on-blue attacks.]
In tabulating the green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan, The Long War Journal has taken its data wherever possible from ISAF press releases. Additional sources include foreign and US press reports as well as LWJ articles. Each listed incident in the timeline includes one or more hyperlinks to sources for the report.
For the purposes of this report, all attacks in Afghanistan in which a person purporting to be a member of the Afghan security forces — whether Afghan National Army, Afghan Local Police, Afghan Border Police, Afghan Uniformed Police, Afghan Air Force, or other branches — are considered “green.” Similarly, all persons purporting to be affiliated with US, ISAF, or NATO security forces, including interpreters and civilian contractors, are considered “blue.”
The data below indicates the number of attacks, the affiliation of the attacker (if known), the location/province where the attack occurred, the date of the attack, the number of security forces killed or wounded in the attack, and the affiliation of those killed or wounded. The data also includes the reported fate of the attacker(s).
Because ISAF has generally not reported on green-on-blue incidents in which no casualties have occurred, the overall number of attacks is likely to be far greater than those reported below. Similarly, ISAF has generally not reported on incidents that have resulted only in injuries, not death; these too are likely to be underreported. ISAF has told The Long War Journal that the overall number of green-on-blue attacks is “classified.”
Finally, there may be a slight discrepancy between the LWJ and ISAF overall casualty counts, as ISAF does not treat attacks by Afghan forces on US/NATO civilian contractors as “green-on-blue” attacks. In addition, some incidents initially seen to have involved only injuries may have later resulted in deaths.
II. DATA SUMMARY
The following data will be updated on an ongoing basis to reflect any new attacks.
The Long War Journal‘s data covers green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan from Jan. 1, 2008 up to the present. As of Aug. 31, 2012, there have been a total of 55 attacks.
Total number of attacks per year:
2012 – 29
2011 – 14
2010 – 6
2009 – 4
2008 – 2
Total number of attacks per province:
Badghis – 3
Baghlan – 1
Balkh – 2
Farah – 1
Faryab – 2
Helmand – 15
Herat – 1
Kabul – 2
Kandahar – 8
Kapisa – 2
Kunar – 1
Laghman – 3
Nangarhar – 3
Paktia – 2
Paktika – 3
Uruzgan – 3
Wardak – 2
Zabul – 1
Numbers of Coalition troops and affiliates killed and wounded by green-on-blue attacks:
The total number of Coalition casualties from green-on-blue attacks for the period Jan. 1, 2008 to the present is 109. The total number of Coalition wounded is 89.
Green-on-blue casualties per year, and percentage of Coalition deaths caused by such attacks:
2012 – 45 – 14%
2011 – 31 – 6%
2010 – 21 – 3%
2009 – 10 – 2%
2008 – 2 – less than 1%
Green-on-blue wounded per year:
2012 – 45
2011 – 23
2010 – 7
2009 – 11
2008 – 3
Total number of green-on-blue casualties per province:
Badghis – 5
Baghlan – 3
Balkh – 4
Farah – 2
Faryab – 2
Helmand – 33
Herat – 3
Kabul – 11
Kandahar – 11
Kapisa – 7
Kunar – 1
Laghman – 5
Nangarhar – 8
Paktia – 2
Paktika – 3
Uruzgan – 4
Wardak – 2
Zabul – 1
Total number of green-on-blue wounded per province:
Badghis – 3
Baghlan – 6
Balkh – 2
Farah – 0
Faryab – 2
Helmand – 16
Herat – 0
Kabul – 0
Kandahar – 22
Kapisa – 15
Kunar – 2
Laghman – 4
Nangarhar – 2
Paktia – 3
Paktika – 0
Uruzgan – 5
Wardak – 7
Zabul – 0
Reported fate of the attacker(s):
Killed (includes killed after fleeing) – 28
Captured – 17*
Wounded (not known if also captured) – 4
Fled – 22
Unknown – 2
* Includes 11 suspects detained in an incident on Feb. 20, 2012.
III. TIMELINE OF GREEN-ON-BLUE ATTACKS IN AFGHANISTAN, 2008 – 2012
Green-on-blue attacks in 2012:
Aug. 28, 2012:
An Afghan soldier shot and killed three Australian soldiers in an attack at a base in Uruzgan province. Two more Australian soldiers were wounded in the attack. According to Australia’s ABC news agency, the attacker, a recent recruit named as Sergeant Hikmatullah, climbed over the base’s fence after the attack and ran away.
Aug. 27, 2012:
An Afghan soldier killed two ISAF soldiers in an attack in Laghman province. The attacker was killed by ISAF soldiers.
Aug. 19, 2012:
An Afghan policeman turned his weapon on a group of ISAF soldiers in southern Afghanistan, killing one soldier and wounding another. The incident occurred in the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province, and the district police chief has since been fired for negligence and lack of control over his personnel, according to AFP. The attacker was killed by return fire.
Aug. 17, 2012:
An Afghan Local Police officer killed two US soldiers during a training exercise on an Afghan base in Farah province. The two soldiers were with Marine Corps special operations; one of the soldiers was a Marine and the other was a Navy corpsman, according to Marine Times. The attacker was killed by nearby troops.
Aug. 17, 2012:
An Afghan soldier shot and wounded two NATO soldiers in Kandahar province; the attacker was killed.
Aug. 13, 2012:
A policeman wounded two US soldiers in an attack in Nangarhar province. The attacker fled.
Aug. 10, 2012:
Three US Marines were killed in an attack in Garmsir district in Helmand province. The attacker was captured.
Aug. 10, 2012:
Three US soldiers were killed an attack by an Afghan police commander and his men in Sangin district in Helmand province. The Afghan police commander fled after the attack.
Aug. 9, 2012:
US troops killed an Afghan soldier who was attempting to gun them down at a training center in Laghman province.
July 23, 2012:
Two ISAF soldiers were wounded in an attack in Faryab province. The attacker was killed by ISAF troops.
July 22, 2012:
A member of the Afghan National Security Forces killed three civilian trainers who work for ISAF in Herat province. The attacker was killed.
July 5, 2012:
Five ISAF personnel were wounded in an attack in Wardak province. The attacker fled.
July 1, 2012:
Three British military advisers were killed by an Afghan policeman in Helmand province. According to the Los Angeles Times, attack occurred in the Nahr-e-Saraj district and the assailant was shot and wounded following the attack.
June 18, 2012:
An ISAF soldier was killed by “three individuals in Afghan Police uniforms” in the south. According to The Associated Press, the gunmen fired a rocket-propelled grenade at ISAF soldiers in the Zhari district of Kandahar province, killing one and wounding nine more before fleeing. The next day, an Afghan policeman “facilitated” an insurgent attack on a base in the Shah Wali Kot district in Kandahar province; the attackers wounded “fewer than 10 US troops.”
May 12, 2012:
Members of the Afghan Uniformed Police killed two British soldiers and wounded two more in an attack in Helmand province. One of the attackers was killed and another escaped.
May 11, 2012:
An Afghan soldier killed a US soldier and wounded two others in an attack in Kunar province. The attacker fled to the Taliban, and on Aug. 7 the Taliban released a video showing him being welcomed as a hero.
May 6, 2012:
An Afghan policeman killed one US Marine and wounded another in Tarekh Naver in the Marjah district of Helmand province, according to The Associated Press. The attacker was killed by return fire.
April 26, 2012:
An Afghan commando killed a US Special Forces soldier and an Afghan interpreter in an attack in Kandahar province. The attacker was killed by return fire.
March 26, 2012:
An ISAF service member died following a shooting incident in eastern Afghanistan. The service member was approaching an ALP checkpoint in Paktika province when he was shot by an alleged member of the Afghan Local Police, The New York Times reported. The attacker was killed by return fire.
March 26, 2012:
An Afghan soldier killed two British troops in an attack in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province. The attacker was killed by return fire.
March 14, 2012:
An Afghan interpreter hijacked an SUV, wounding a British soldier, then attempted to run down a group of US Marines, including a major general, at the Camp Bastion airfield in Helmand province, just before Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s plane was scheduled to land. The attacker crashed his truck and then set himself on fire; the attacker’s brother and father, also interpreters, were both detained, as was another person said also to be an interpreter, according to The Associated Press.
March 1, 2012:
An Afghan soldier and a teacher opened fire on NATO troops in Kandahar province, killing two ISAF soldiers before being killed in return fire.
Feb. 25, 2012:
An Afghan soldier gunned down two US military officers in the Interior Ministry in Kabul before escaping.
Feb. 23, 2012:
An Afghan soldier killed two US troops at a base in Nangarhar province. According to the Los Angeles Times, the incident occurred at a base in the Khogyani district; hundreds of anti-US protesters had gathered outside the base following the recent burning of Korans. After the shooting, the attacker escaped into the crowd.
Feb. 20, 2012:
A member of the Afghan Uniformed Police killed an ISAF soldier in southern Afghanistan. According to The Associated Press, gunmen in Afghan police uniforms opened fire on NATO troops in the Spin Boldak of Kandahar province, killing one Albanian soldier and wounding two international troops, one of whom was Albanian. Eleven policemen suspects were arrested.
Jan. 31, 2012:
An Afghan soldier killed an ISAF soldier in southern Afghanistan. According to the Associated Press, the incident occurred at a base in the Marjah district in Helmand province; the Afghan commander said it was an accident but the shooter was detained.
Jan. 20, 2012:
An Afghan soldier killed four ISAF soldiers in eastern Afghanistan. According to AFP, the attacker shot and killed four unarmed French soldiers and wounded another 15 at their base in Kapisa province, a fifth soldier later died of his wounds. The attacker was apprehended.
Jan. 8, 2012:
An Afghan soldier killed an ISAF soldier in southern Afghanistan. According to The New York Times, the Afghan soldier shot a US soldier during a volleyball game as a US base in Qalat district in Zabul. The attacker was shot and killed by another US soldier.
Green-on-blue attacks in 2011:
Dec. 29, 2011:
An Afghan soldier killed two ISAF soldiers in eastern Afghanistan. According to AFP, the attack occurred in the Tagab Valley of Kapisa province and the attacker shot and killed two noncommissioned officers of the French Foreign Legion. The Taliban claimed the attack and said the attacker also was killed.
Nov. 9, 2011:
Three Australian soldiers were wounded when an Afghan soldier shot them at an Australian base in Uruzgan province; the attacker fled in an army vehicle.
Oct. 29, 2011:
An Afghan army trainee opened fire at a forward operating base in the Nish district of Kandahar province that was being used to train ANA troops, killing three Australian soldiers and one interpreter, and wounding at least nine others, including seven Australians. The attacker was killed by other Afghan soldiers.
July 16, 2011:
An Afghan soldier killed an ISAF soldier in southern Afghanistan. According to The Telegraph, a NATO soldier was shot by an Afghan soldier not far from Lashkar Gah in Helmand province during a joint patrol. The attacker ran away after the shooting.
May 30, 2011:
An Afghan soldier killed an ISAF soldier in southern Afghanistan. According to an Australian Department of Defense press release, an Australian soldier from the Mentoring Task Force was shot while manning a guard tower at patrol base MASHAL in the Chorah Valley in Uruzgan province by another guard, a soldier from the Afghan army, who fled.
May 13, 2011: Two NATO soldiers who were mentoring an Afghan National Civil Order brigade were shot and killed inside a police compound in Helmand province by a man wearing wearing an Afghan police uniform. The gunman was wounded by return fire and taken to a hospital.
April 27, 2011:
A veteran Afghan air force pilot opened fire inside a NATO military base in Kabul, killing eight NATO troops and a contractor. According to The Washington Post, the shooter, a two-decade veteran of the Afghan air force named Ahmad Gul, jumped out a window after the attack, injuring his leg.
April 16, 2011:
A newly recruited Afghan soldier who was a Taliban suicide bomber detonated at Forward Operating Base Gamberi in Laghman province near the border with Nangarhar province, killing five NATO troops and four Afghan soldiers. Eight other Afghans were wounded, including four interpreters.
April 4, 2011:
An Afghan soldier opened fire on ISAF vehicles in Kandahar province; no casualties were reported.
April 4, 2011:
An Afghan Border Police officer guarding a meeting between a Border Police commander and US military trainers in Maimana, the capital of Faryab province, shot and killed two US soldiers, then fled. ISAF reported on April 7 that the attacker was killed when he displayed hostile intent after being tracked down in Maimana; two other insurgents were arrested during the raid.
Feb. 18, 2011:
An Afghan soldier opened fire on German soldiers at a base in Baghlan province, killing three German soldiers and wounding six others. The attacker was killed in return fire.
Jan. 18, 2011:
An Afghan soldier shot two Italian soldiers at a combat outpost in the Bala Murghab district of Badghis province, killing one and wounding the other before escaping.
Jan. 15, 2011:
An Afghan soldier argued with a Marine in the Sangin district in Helmand, threatened him, and later returned and aimed his weapon at the Marine. When the Afghan soldier failed to put his rifle down, the Marine shot him.
Green-on-blue attacks in 2010:
Nov. 29, 2010:
An individual in an Afghan Border Police uniform killed six ISAF soldiers during a training mission in eastern Afghanistan; the attacker was killed in the incident. See LWJ article: Afghan ‘policeman’ kills 6 ISAF soldiers. According to McClatchy News, the incident took place during a training mission in the district of Pachir Agam in Nangarhar province.
Nov. 6, 2010:
Two US Marines were killed by an Afghan soldier at a military base in the Sangin district of Helmand province. The shooter fled to the Taliban.
Nov. 4, 2010:
An Afghan policeman shot and killed three UK Grenadier Guards and two members of the UK Royal Military Police; six other British troops were seriously wounded alongside two Afghans. The incident occurred while the soldiers were resting after a joint patrol at a checkpoint in the Nad-e-Ali district of Helmand province. The attacker escaped.
Aug. 26, 2010:
Two Spanish police officers and their interpreter were shot dead by their Afghan driver on a Spanish base in Badghis province. The shootings set off a riot outside the base; shots were fired at the base and fires were set. Officials say 25 people were wounded. The attacker was shot dead by other Spanish officers.
July 20, 2010:
An Afghan soldier killed two US civilian trainers at a training base in northern Afghanistan, at Camp Shaheen, an Afghan army training base outside Mazar-e-Sharif in Balkh province. In addition, one NATO soldier was wounded. The attacker was killed.
July 13, 2010:
An Afghan soldier killed three British troops in Helmand province. The attacker fled to the Taliban. It is unclear if there was more than one attacker, but one attacker fled and no attacker was captured.
Green-on-blue attacks in 2009:
Dec. 29, 2009:
An Afghan soldier fired on NATO troops who were preventing him from approaching a helicopter that was landing at a military base in the Bala Murghab district of Badghis province. He killed a US soldier and injured two Italian soldiers, before being injured himself by return fire.
Nov. 2, 2009:
An Afghan policeman killed five British soldiers in Helmand. Six British soldiers were also wounded in the attack which occurred when the British soldiers were visiting a jointly run Afghan and British checkpoint. It is unclear if there was more than one attacker, but one attacker fled and no attacker was captured.
Oct. 28, 2009:
An Afghan policeman fired on American soldiers during a joint patrol in Wardak province, killing two and injuring two more before fleeing.
March 27, 2009:
An Afghan soldier shot and killed two US Navy officers assigned to Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan at Camp Shaheen in Mazar-E-Sharif in Balkh province. According to the Military Times, the attacker also wounded another US Navy officer. The attacker then fatally shot himself.
Green-on-blue attacks in 2008:
Oct. 18, 2008:
An Afghan policeman standing on a tower hurled a grenade and opened fire on a US military foot patrol as it was returning to a base in Bermel district in Paktika province, killing a US soldier. The soldiers returned fire, killing the policeman.
Sept. 29, 2008:
An Afghan policeman opened fire at a police station in Paktia province, killing one US soldier and wounding three others before he was fatally shot.
Note: Data for green-on-blue attacks in previous years will be added later.