On Saturday, July 7th, a U.S. service member was killed and two others were injured in an insider attack in Afghanistan. Since June of 2017, there have been 96 total attacks of this sort that are termed “green-on-blue”, according to the The Long War Journal’s data. According to a local police officer, the shooting occurred at the airport in Tarinkot, the capital of Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province. The shooting is currently under investigation. The solider killed was Corporal Joseph Maciel of South Gate, California.
This attack on U.S. forces happened the same day that a major joint operation between Afghan commandos and U.S. Special Forces, including over 600 members of the Green Berets, killed 167 Islamic State fighters. No U.S. troops or Afghan counterparts were killed in the operation.
This is the first green-on-blue attack that has taken place in over a year. Last year, in Nangarhar Province, an Afghan National Army soldier shot and killed three U.S. soldiers and injured one. The July 7th attack comes on the heels of an uptick in violence in the region has been ongoing for the last couple weeks. The week prior, a suicide bomber from the Islamic State killed 13 members of the Sikh community in Jalalabad. This was followed on Tuesday, July 10th, by a suicide bomber attack in Jalalabad, which killed at least 12 people.
These insider attacks have become less common in recent years, an occurrence that may be the result of the smaller number of troops in Afghanistan and the increase in the use of Guardian Angles, a special group that acts as an extra set of eyes watching over U.S. forces when they are working with their Afghan counterparts. Furthermore, green-on-Blue attacks are hard to count because they are only documented when soldiers are injured or killed.
A spokesman for the Taliban, Qari Yosuf Ahmadi, said the shooting was carried out by a lone member of the Afghan security force and heralded the Taliban’s praise the attack on the U.S. Soldier. Green-on-Blue attacks have for years hurt the relationship and trust that has been built between Afghan and American forces over the course of the Afghan conflict, and these attacks continue complicate the situation between the two fighting forces.
The Afghan army, however, is plagued with high levels of both corruption and desertion among its ranks. These issues and others demonstrate that the U.S. Forces are needed to help the Afghan forces because they cannot fight the Taliban alone. Over 6,000 U.S. troops run counterterrorism operations within Afghanistan in addition to another 8,000 that help train local military and police officials. In 2014 there began a large removal of troops in Afghanistan that saw the numbers go from 50,500 to 12,900 by December of 2016. However, since June 2017, the number of troops in Afghanistan has been increasing. There are around 14,000 troops in Afghanistan today. As such, it seems as though U.S. forces will be needed for the foreseeable future.
On Monday July 9th, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan. During his visit he said that the prospect of peace talks is improving between the Taliban and Afghan government. This is the secretary’s first visit to Afghanistan as the United States is prepared to support the discussions between the two groups.