- Armament and disarmament
- Conflict, peace and security
- Peace and development
Last week, 6 foreign soldiers were killed in green-on-blue incidents, bringing the number of insider attacks to at least 32 this year with more than 51 ISAF fatalities; this is already twice the number of insider attacks perpetrated in 2011. According to the Long War Journal, 15 per cent of all ISAF casualties this year can be attributed to green-on-blue attacks. These incidents raise important questions about the ongoing and long-term management of security in Afghanistan, about how to deal with insurgents, and about the role of the international community.
ISAF soldiers who serve as trainers and mentors to Afghan security forces are especially vulnerable to such attacks. This increasing level of risk together with rising, widespread anti-US sentiments stemming from the recent release of ‘The Innocence of Islam’ led ISAF to announce on 16 September that joint Afghan-NATO military operations would be scaled back. The critical nature of green-on-blue incidents is also reflected in the fact that both the British and Danish governments have called for this issue to be addressed at the next meeting of NATO Defence Ministers.
According to ISAF, the reduction in joint operations is a temporary measure only and pertains mainly to smaller- and medium-level joint operations, which have in fact been where most of the more effective joint security training has been conducted and where Afghan and international ISAF mentors have worked together closely. This change in operations therefore means that there will be fewer hands-on training opportunities for ANSF with a consequent impact on ISAF’s transition plans, in particular the handover of security responsibilities to ANSF by the end of 2014.
While the Taliban have claimed responsibility for most insider attacks, it is unlikely that they are behind all of them. NATO has confirmed at least one case of insurgent infiltration into the ANSF this year, yet acknowledges that the rate could be as high as 25 percent. Regardless of whether the Taliban are responsible or not, they are nonetheless exploiting each green-on-blue incident as demonstrating that ISAF is struggling and intending to pull out before 2014.
The spike in such attacks is not only indicative of difficulties between ISAF and the ANSF but also raises some other important points: