A series of attacks by Afghan security personnel on foreign troops and their own Afghan comrades recently have become a cause of concern about infiltration in the ranks of Afghan forces.
The ‘Green-on-Blue’ attacks in which Afghan security personnel have targeted their Western allies are not new. However, the killing of a top US general inside a military academy in Kabul this month shook the American defence department and the Afghan security establishment.
Major-General Harold Greene was killed when an Afghan soldier opened fire on foreign forces at the Marshal Fahim Military Academy on August 5. The soldier also wounded 10 US soldiers, two British soldiers, one German general, one Afghan general and two other officers, sections of the Afghan media reported. The attack was one of the bloodiest “Green-on-Blue” assaults in Afghanistan since the foreign forces invaded the country in 2001.
Soon after the attack, the Pentagon spokesman remarked the Green-on-Blue attacks are serious threats and need to be curtailed. He, however, pointed out the attacks will not affect the trust between Afghan and foreign troops.
“Afghanistan is still a war zone, so it is impossible to completely eliminate that threat, but you can work hard to mitigate and minimise it and the ISAF has done that,” the US media quoted Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby as saying last week.
Pentagon’s concerns could be seen as genuine at a time when Washington wants to keep a few thousand troops for “training” following the withdrawal of Nato forces this year. The US, therefore, is anxiously waiting for the new Afghan leader to sign a controversial security pact for a longer stay of its troops.
The insider attacks and the latest one on foreign trainers has raised questions about Afghan security agencies and a number of media outlets blame intelligence failures for the ‘Green-on-Blue’ assaults.
Defence experts in Afghanistan say the growing number of such attacks indicate that the Taliban have increased influence within the security forces which could have a negative impact on the morale of the security forces and earn bad name for the government.
“There is a strong possibility that the Taliban have increased influence in the ranks of the security forces that has resulted in the series of recent attacks,” former Afghan defence minister Shahnawaz Tanai told The Express Tribune via phone from Kabul.
“The attacks will badly affect the morale of foreign troops at a time when they are packing up and handing over the responsibility of security to Afghan forces,” said Tanai, who led the Afghan armed forces during the communist regime of Dr Najibullah.
He added that Afghan security men have either taken “revenge of their insult at the hands of the foreign troops” or have been affected by the “brutalities” of foreign soldiers in their areas or during training.
The Afghan Taliban did not claim responsibility for the Kabul academy attack. However, they have praised the soldiers who have orchestrated the attacks on foreign and Afghan forces.
“The valiant Afghan soldier has killed Americans and other foreign troops,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement. He also eulogised the action of the Afghan policemen who killed nearly 11 colleagues in three different attacks.
When Taliban launched their “Spring Offensive” this year, they also said “insider attacks” would be part of the operation codenamed “Khaiber”.
“Back-breaking martyrdom strikes, infiltrator operations (insider attacks), targeting large and well-fortified enemy bases with heavy weapons and missiles as well as carrying out head-on offensive operations against enemy gatherings shall be some of the main techniques used in these spring operations,” the Taliban spokesperson had stated at the launch of the offensive.
Some of the security personnel involved in previous attacks had joined the Taliban after killing either foreign troops or local personnel.
A Taliban leader says that a group’s commission is vigorously working on a plan to “invite and absorb” security personnel and government officials at a time when foreign troops have just a few more months in Afghanistan. Requesting not to be identified, the Taliban leader claimed that “many Afghans in the government and security forces” are in contact with the Taliban.
Fearing security challenges, a large number of Afghans, who have worked with the US and Nato forces, have already been granted visas by the US and some other Western countries to settle there.
Syed Akbar Agha, a former militant commander who now heads a peace movement, says that resentment among Afghan forces against foreign invasion prompts attacks on foreign troops.
“Many among the Afghan forces are upset at the arrogance and the long [drawn] invasion of foreign troops, and that is why they resort to attacks on them,” Agha, head of ‘Da Afghanistan Khlasun Laar’ (Ways to Save Afghanistan), told The Express Tribune from Kabul. He said there are also many people in the cabinet, parliament and in government departments who do not want foreigners to stay in Afghanistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2014.