members and civilian employees of Afghanistan’s security forces had killed no fewer than 40 coalition troops this year—at least 10 of the dead, all of them Americans, in the first three weeks of August alone. The count has already passed last year’s total of 35 dead, and it’s reached fully double the figure for all of 2010. (via nwswk)
- as worried as U.S. commanders are by the growing number of insider attacks—“green-on-blue killings,” they’re sometimes called—Major Hasanzada (as he asks us to call him) says the trend doesn’t surprise him. “I understand why our men are shooting U.S. and NATO soldiers,” the Afghan National Army officer tells Newsweek. “I too have been personally hurt by the way American forces behave towards my soldiers, our villagers, our religion and culture. Too many of them are racist, arrogant, and simply don’t respect us.”
- A problem that emerged as a few isolated violent incidents in 2005 is now undermining the trust that’s essential if allied forces hope to prepare the Afghans to shoulder their country’s security responsibilities by the 2014 withdrawal deadline. In the past year or so, coalition troops have been working more closely than ever with Afghan troops. In fact, some U.S. commanders partly blame the rising frequency of insider attacks on this closer partnership between coalition and Afghan forces on the ground.
- everal of the men under Major Hasanzada’s command have told him that they too have thought about shooting their foreign trainers and counterparts, he says: “One soldier told me, ‘In my heart I want to empty my bullets into their chests.’ He has not done anything yet, but we are watching him carefully.”
- The trouble is that the estrangement is feeding on itself. A 48-year-old Afghan Army colonel confirms that the once cordial relations between Afghan and U.S. troops, both on the frontlines and in the barracks, have deteriorated badly in the past year. A veteran soldier who served under the communist-run government in the 1980s and early 1990s, he says the Americans have worsened the divide recently by shunning the Afghans, largely for fear of insider attacks. “We had a very good understanding with each other for years, but in the past year the Americans seem reluctant to deal with us,” he tells Newsweek. “Our social relations and professional cooperation are getting worse,” he says.
- The colonel looks back fondly on the fraternization and camaraderie he used to enjoy with the Americans. “After duties were done, we used to go to their side of the base, and they used to come to our barracks for talks and meals,” he recalls. “Now we rarely meet except for professional duties.” Major Hasanzada says he also has been aware of the Americans’ retreat: “I think these [insider] attacks have reduced, if not ended, our social relations. I think the Americans do not see any solution except to keep their distance.”
- The colonel says he understands the Americans’ standoffishness: “One of our soldiers shot a number of U.S. soldiers in Paktika in broad daylight and escaped,” he says, refusing to be more specific about the circumstances. “After investigating, we found that the soldier had Taliban connections and had joined the army to kill Americans.” Although coalition commanders have said that only one green-on-blue attack in 10 is committed by Taliban infiltrators, the colonel says he thinks the number may be much higher. “The number of recruits who have a Taliban consciousness and are joining the army with the aim of looking for American blood should not be underestimated,” he says. “The Taliban are hunting two birds with one arrow: they are killing coalition soldiers while at the same time hurting working relations between our allied forces.”
- That’s exactly what the insurgents are hoping for. “These [insider] attacks are perhaps our most effective tool to create a golden gap between the Americans and the Afghans,” a senior Taliban commander in northern Kunduz province tells Newsweek. “We are aware that the Afghan security forces are getting stronger, so this is best way for us to weaken and divide them from the Americans.” He claims that the insurgents have a carefully planned strategy to infiltrate the Afghan ranks, not only to stage insider hits on allied soldiers but also to undermine morale. “We are working like termites, eating into this already rotten wooden structure,” he says.
- The colonel may well be right that the 10 percent estimate is low. In a video press conference last week, the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, said as many as a quarter of the insider killings could be the work of Taliban infiltrators or troops who are acting under Taliban coercion. It’s impossible to give more than a rough guess, he explained: most green-on-blue shooters don’t live to explain themselves. Nevertheless, he said, the majority of the attacks so far have apparently been motivated by rage rather than ideology.
- The rage keeps growing—and not only among Afghans in uniform. Last year an Afghan Air Force pilot, a 20-year veteran named Ahmad Gul, gunned down eight U.S. Air Force flight instructors and an American civilian contractor after an argument at Kabul International Airport. The pilot’s brother, Dr. Mohammad Hassan Sahibi, was quoted at the time as denying that Gul had any ties to the insurgency. He blaming financial problems for the shooting. Reached by phone last week, the doctor may have spoken more candidly when asked what had caused his brother’s outburst. “You are journalist—you should know what’s going on in this country,” he told Newsweek’s reporter. “My brother did it because of what’s going on in Afghanistan!” With that, he cut off his cellphone.
- Ethnic Pashtuns, in whose homelands the war is largely being fought, will do just about anything to honor and protect a guest under their time-honored Pashtunwali customs. But there are strict boundaries even to that code of honor. “Even for guests there are limitations,” says Major Hasanzada. “They must respect our Islamic values and cultural traditions.” There are no exceptions. And forgiveness is not an option, no matter what the offender’s explanation may be.
- Most Americans may have forgotten the religious and cultural offenses by U.S. troops that have shocked ordinary Afghans over the past year, but Afghans can’t forget them. There was the discovery of charred copies of the Quran in a garbage dump at Bagram Air Base that sparked several days of anti-American riots in February. There was the infamous and inexplicable rampage by a U.S. sergeant who allegedly slaughtered 16 women, children, and old men as they slept and then attempted to burn their corpses. There was the video of U.S. soldiers urinating on the corpses of dead Taliban fighters—and the photos of U.S. troops showing off body parts taken from dead insurgents. It made no difference that the bodies were those of enemy fighters: in Afghanistan the dead are not to be desecrated.
- The list of grievances doesn’t end there. Many Afghan civilians also have a visceral hatred of the U.S.-led late-night surprise assaults on Afghan homes suspected of harboring Taliban militants. “Burning Qurans, massacring defenseless women and children, urinating on dead bodies, and midnight raids are outrages for which the U.S. is now paying a heavy cost,” says Major Hasanzada. “These soldiers who are reacting against the U.S. are not Taliban, but these terrible incidents seem to have made them instant Taliban.”
this cannot end well. the end result may be far worse than the situation that led to 9/11. Also, the Afghans seem to be looking for any excuse to complain, much like a gf who feels that you’re about to breakup and she doesn’t want the relationship to end.