Afghan soldiers opened fire on US troops in eastern Afghanistan today, killing two US soldiers and a civilian, and wounding three other Americans. The attack took place in an area where the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network is known to operate.
The International Security Assistance Force confirmed that two ISAF soldiers and “one US civilian” were struck down “when an individual wearing an ANA uniform turned his weapon against the ISAF service members in eastern Afghanistan.”
ISAF indicated that more than one soldier was involved in the attack. One Afghan soldier was killed and another captured, according to ISAF.
“One shooter was killed and another arrested after the incident occurred,” ISAF said in a follow-up press release.
A spokesman for the governor of Paktika said the killings occurred after an argument, and that three Americans were wounded as well, Reuters reported. The attacker was shot dead after opening fire, he said.
ISAF did not identify the location of the attack. A US military officer told The Long War Journal that the attack took place on a forward operating base in Paktika province, where the Haqqani Network, a Taliban subgroup linked to al Qaeda and supported by Pakistan’s military and Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, is based.
Today’s green-on-blue attack, in which Afghan forces attack ISAF personnel, is the first of its kind since May 4, when an Afghan soldier killed two ISAF troops in the west.
There have been seven reported green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan so far in 2013. Seven ISAF soldiers and two civilian advisers have been killed in the seven attacks since Jan. 1. The first attack took place on Jan. 6 in Helmand province.
At this point in the year, 11% of ISAF’s deaths have resulted from 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 79 insider or green-on-blue attacks have been reported against ISAF personnel in Afghanistan, killing 135 personnel and wounding 153 more. [See LWJ special report, Green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan: the data.]
Green-on-blue data remains “classified” by ISAF
While seven 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 claim 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.]
At the end of April, 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.