Center for Strategic Communication

An Afghan soldier opened fire on Coalition soldiers in southern Afghanistan yesterday, killing three and wounding two more. The attack is the latest in the long string of so-called green-on-blue incidents, or insider attacks, in which Afghan security personnel have killed or wounded members of the International Security Assistance Force. There have been over 50 such attacks reported since 2008.

ISAF said that the three soldiers were killed after “[a]n individual wearing an Afghan National Army uniform turned his weapon against” them. According to the ISAF press release, the incident is under investigation. The nationalities of the troops killed were not disclosed.

The attack took place in the southern province of Uruzgan, Geo News reported, where 1,500 Australian troops are currently deployed. According to Geo News, a US commander said the slain troops were not from the US.

Several hours later, the Australian Department of Defence confirmed that the attack, which occurred on a base in Uruzgan, killed three Australian soldiers and wounded two more, according to the Australian news agency ABC. The circumstances of the attack were not disclosed.

The attack is the third known green-on-blue incident in Uruzgan province; all three attacks have targeted Australian forces. On Nov. 9, 2011, three Australian soldiers were wounded when an Afghan soldier shot them at a base in the province; the attacker fled in an army vehicle. And on May 30, 2011, an Australian soldier from the Mentoring Task Force was shot while manning a guard tower at patrol base MASHAL in the Chorah Valley by another guard, a soldier from the Afghan army, who fled after the incident.

On Aug. 7, the Taliban released a video showing Taliban forces welcoming ‘rogue’ Afghan army soldiers who had attacked Coalition troops; one segment of the video purportedly shows the man who conducted the Nov. 9, 2011 attack in Uruzgan. [See Threat Matrix report, Observations on Taliban video ‘welcoming’ rogue ANA soldiers.]

Background on green-on-blue attacks

Attacks by Afghan forces on Coalition forces have skyrocketed this year. In the first eight months of this year, the number of green-on-blue attacks (29) has more than doubled last year’s total of 14.

Attacks that resulted in deaths of ISAF troops have also 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%. [For more details and statistics on the green-on-blue attacks, see LWJ Special Report, Green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan: the data.]

ISAF commanders have insisted that most of the attacks are due to cultural differences between Afghan and Western troops. General John Allen, the commander of ISAF, even blamed the spike on Afghans being hungry and irritable due to fasting during Ramadan.

In seeking to account for the rise in insider attacks, ISAF commanders have downplayed the role of Taliban infiltration. Commanders have issued conflicting estimates of the percentage of attacks caused by Taliban infiltration and coercion, ranging from 10% to 25% in recent weeks, to 50% earlier this year.

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.]