Center for Strategic Communication

An Afghan soldier killed two NATO troops in an attack in western Afghanistan today. The attack is the sixth green-on-blue, or insider attack, in which Afghan security personnel open fire on Western forces, so far this year.

The International Security Assistance Force announced that two “service members were killed when an Afghan National Army soldier turned his weapon against ISAF service members in western Afghanistan today.”

ISAF did not disclose the identities or nationalities of the soldiers who were killed in the attack. US, Spanish, and Italian soldiers make up the bulk of the forces operating in western Afghanistan.

It is also unclear if the Afghan soldier was killed or captured after killing the Afghan soldiers, or if he escaped.

So far this year, there have been six green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan. Five ISAF soldiers and one civilian adviser have been killed in the six attacks since Jan. 1. The first attack took place on Jan. 6 in Helmand province. The last such attack took place on April 7, when two Lithuanian soldiers were wounded after an Afghan soldier opened fire on their vehicle with an RPG.

So far this year, nearly 13 percent of ISAF’s deaths have been the result of green-on-blue attacks. Last year, green-on-blue attacks accounted for 15% of Coalition deaths. The attacks have tapered off in recent months as partnering of Afghan and Coalition troops has been reduced.

Since Jan. 1, 2008, a total of 78 insider or “green-on-blue” attacks have been reported against International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) personnel in Afghanistan, killing 132 personnel and wounding 148 more. [See LWJ special report, Green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan: the data.]

Green-on-blue data remains “classified” by ISAF

While six green-on-blue attacks have been reported so far this year, the likelihood is that the number is much higher. ISAF has not disclosed the overall number of green-on-blue incidents in which ISAF soldiers were wounded by Afghan security personnel, or the attacks on ISAF personnel that did not result in casualties.

ISAF told The Long War Journal in March 2012 that “these statistics … [are ] … classified.

“[A]ttacks by ANSF on Coalition Forces … either resulting in non-injury, injury or death … these stats as a whole (the total # attacks) are what is classified and not releasable,” Lieutenant Colonel Jimmie Cummings, ISAF’s former Press Desk Chief, told The Long War Journal. Cummings said that ISAF is “looking to declassify this number.”

Inquiries as to why the overall statistic is classified went unanswered. More than one year later, the data remains classified.

Many green-on-blue attacks remain unreported. For instance, one such attack, on March 25 in Kandahar province, is known only because a reporter from The Long War Journal was present when the incident took place. In that attack, Afghan local policemen opened fire on a US base after US personnel tried to arrest a known Taliban commander at the ALP checkpoint [see LWJ report, The anatomy of green-on-blue tensions in Panjwai].

Insider attacks a key part of Taliban strategy

The Taliban have claimed to have stepped up their efforts to infiltrate Afghan security forces as well as “lure” and encourage Afghan security personnel to attack ISAF troops and advisers.

In October 2012, Taliban emir Mullah Omar released an Eid al-Adha message that urged followers to “[i]increase Increase your efforts to expand the area of infiltration in the ranks of the enemy and to bring about better order and array in the work.” The statement continued: “We call on the Afghans who still stand with the stooge regime to turn to full-fledged cooperation with their Mujahid people like courageous persons in order to protect national interests and to complete independence of the country. Jihadic activities inside the circle of the State militias are the most effective stratagem. Its dimension will see further expansion, organization and efficiency if God willing.”

Omar had previously addressed the issue of green-on-blue attacks at length in a statement released on Aug. 16, 2012. 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.]

Just last week, the Taliban announced that green-on-blue attacks would be a key part of this year’s strategy.

“This year’s spring operation, in accordance with its combat nature, will consist of special military tactics quantity and quality wise while successful insider attacks, to eliminate foreign invaders, will be carried out by infiltrating Mujahideen inside enemy bases in a systematic and coordinated manner,” the Taliban announced on April 27.