Home inContext Insider Attack Kills Two in Afghanistan

Insider Attack Kills Two in Afghanistan

Michael Johnson

Two U.S. soldiers died Monday during a shooting with a man wearing an Afghan military uniform in Afghanistan’s Wardak province. According to a police official, the attack at a joint base in the country’s east, also killed three local policeman and two Afghan army officers. Americans held five other local police officers for questioning.

“Insider” or green on blue attacks, where members of the Afghan security forces turn their guns on western troops or even other Afghan officials, continue to account for a growing proportion of NATO International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) fatalities. In 2012, about 60 foreign soldiers died from insider attacks accounting for more than one out of ten coalitions facilities.

Afghan police officers in a drill during a graduation ceremony in Herat Province in May. (Photo: AFP)

The reasons behind an insider attack often remain unclear, some attackers escape but most others are killed, leaving their motives undiscoverable. Even though the Taliban takes credit for almost all green on blue attacks, NATO officials believe Taliban infiltration accounts for only about one in four. Afghan officials dispute this figure. Rather, according to The Economist, most attacks occur because of “personal arguments and cultural misunderstandings that can flare fatally among heavily armed young men.” Recruits often come from conservative rural areas and Afghan security forces cite cursing, arrogance and ignorance could lead to tensions and disputes. Battle fatigue, combat stress, and long postings can also aggravate already tense relationships between local and foreign forces..

NATO commanders take the problem seriously, in 2012 over 350,000 Afghan security personnel had their backgrounds reinvestigated with new recruits also going through an eight-step vetting process. Hundreds of Afghans were discharged under suspicion of radicalization. Field commanders could place more sentries to oversee foreign soldiers in crowded areas and a directive prescribes coalition soldiers should keep loaded weapons with them.

In a war where America and other coalition members are already heading for the exits, attacks on ISAF personnel will continue to drive political opinion in the West. How will Afghanistan’s security forces maintain order in the country fighting the Taliban Insurgency, if they cannot insure the loyalty of their own soldiers?