Tag Archives: “green-on-blue” attacks

The Implications of America’s Involvement with Afghanistan

According to recent reports the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is currently around 11,000, higher than the previously disclosed number, 8,400, released by the Department of Defense in 2016.

American troops have been deployed to Afghanistan for 16 years.

At peak involvement in 2011, the U.S. had deployed approximately 100,000 troops, as part of President Obama’s surge plan intended to stabilize Afghanistan for a troop withdrawal along a predetermined gradual timetable.

The increase in troops paralleled an increase in the number of U.S. and coalition casualties. 2011 and 2012 also saw an increased number of so-called “Green on Blue” attacks, where Afghan government forces targeted U.S. or Coalition soldiers, with 16 green-on-blue attacks in 2011 and increasing to 44 by 2012.

In 2017 there were 3 “Green-on-Blue” attacks.

Even after the troop surge, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Islamic State and variety of smaller Pakistani terrorist groups remain operational in Afghanistan. Tehreek-e-Taliban, Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi and Lashkar-e-Taiba  are just some of the other Afghan and Pakistani terrorist organizations that continue to hold ground throughout Afghanistan.

Twenty of the 98 U.S. designated terrorist groups worldwide operate in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and this is the highest concentration of terrorist groups anywhere in the world.  The Taliban is believed to maintain control of approximately 40% of Afghan territory.

During President Trump’s campaign one of his promises was to get out of the war in Afghanistan. Now several months later President Trump intends to increase both defense spending in Afghanistan, but also deploy more Americans soldiers. The current amount of aid being sent to Afghanistan is around $4 billion. However, over the past 16 years the United States has spent over $117  billion in foreign aid to Afghanistan.

In President Trump’s speech on August 21st, he announced the primary goal as one of targeting terrorist groups, noting, “we are not nation building, but destroying terrorists and preventing weapons from falling into their hands.”

President Trump is seeking to avoid a vacuum in Afghanistan similar to the aftermath of U.S. withdrawal from Iraq 2011, that led to the resurgence of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which in turn metastasized into the Islamic State.

The strategy for Afghanistan calls for both increased military involvement as well as seeking support from U.S. allies, most notably India. The President’s invocation of India is likely intended to put pressure on Pakistan.

Part of the Trump plan for Afghanistan involves tackling the role of Pakistan-technically a U.S. ally- in funding and harboring terrorist groups destabilizing Afghanistan. The U.S. has drastically cut aid to Pakistan in recent years, but the South Asian nation still received $383 million in 2016. According to U.S. government data,  $742 million is planned for Pakistan in fiscal year 2017. There is a risk in the plan however, given tensions in the region between Pakistan, India, and neighboring China.

Another aspect of President Trump’s plan is abandoning a fixed timeline, in favor of a conditional approach. President Trump wants to attempt a conditional approach toward eliminating the Taliban and remnants of Al-Qaeda and its affiliates such as IS.

The Afghan Special Operation Command has primarily served as the bulwark against attacks launched by the Taliban and other Islamic jihadis groups. The Afghan government is ramping up their Special Operation Forces to cover more territory so that more missions can be conducted to successfully limit the Taliban’s expansion.

Part of President Trump’s increase in U.S. troops to Afghanistan is intended to train up to 17,000 new members of the Afghan special forces unit, one of the few effective units upon which the Afghan military relies extensively.

Afghanistan’s President Ashrah Ghani, ordered in their four-year roadmap that the increase in their special operations. The Afghan Special Operation command will also attempt to regain territory held by the Taliban and other jihadist groups.

The U.S. has seen a similar program to combat terrorism in Iraq. The estimated 4,000 U.S. troops in Iraq has been involved in programs to retrain and reunify the Iraqi army, which relies heavily on Iraq’s elite counter terrorism service. At first the program met difficulties with Iraqis not wanting to join the military, and the resistance from Iraqi officers not sending units to Americans for training. Heavy reliance by the Iraqis on special forces capability has become apparent following the liberation of Mosul where Iraqi special forces suffered heavy casualties are difficult and time consuming to replace.

The Afghan army may be experience something similar in the fight against the Taliban, which should be a concern for U.S. planners. It remains to be seen what effect the Trump policy for Afghanistan will have. But it is likely to succeed only if taking into account previous surge and train efforts and why and how they failed.

The role of green-on-blue attacks in the Taliban’s strategy to weaken the Afghan military

On March 19th an Afghan soldiers opened fire on U.S. coalition troops at a military base in the Helmand province, an area heavily contested by the Taliban. Three U.S. soldiers were wounded and the perpetrator killed. The Taliban did not claim responsibility, but praised the attacker.

This was the first green-on-blue attack this year, which are attacks by Afghan soldiers on U.S. and coalition forces. First reported green-on-blue attacks occurred in 2008, but it was not until 2012 that these attacks reach their peak of 44. At that point they accounted for 15% of all U.S. and NATO combat deaths in Afghanistan. The next year these attacks declined to 13 and continued the downward path reaching only two attacks in 2016. Taliban has claimed that their infiltrators in Afghan military have perpetrated these attacks.

Quantifying green-on-blue attacks is difficult in part because ISAF does not report on attacks unless soldiers have been wounded or killed, so unsuccessful or prevented attacks are not included in calculations. There remains a debate over to degree to which Green-on-Blue attacks are the results of religious or cultural conflicts between Afghan and Coalition service members, or the result of a campaign of Taliban infiltration.

Turning Afghan military personnel over to their side has been a serious effort by the Taliban. The jihadist group’s now deceased leader, Mullah Omar described in 2012 a “Call and Guidance, Luring and Integration” department, designed to encourage Afghan army and security personnel to defect to the Taliban. It’s not entirely clear how successful this effort has been, although there have been some notable defections. In November 2016 a group of 41 Afghan National Army soldiers surrendered and turned their entire base in the Chora District over to the Taliban.

Defections and desertions are the result of low morale in the Afghan military it’s military suffering from high casualty rates and low reenlistment numbers. As of November 2016 the army is at 87% of its strength and has likely grown weaker because the Taliban was able to expand control in the country.

Low morale stems at least in part from the corruption within its officers’ corps. For example, corruption among army commanders in the Helmand province caused military operations to stall and led to mass desertions. The problem extends to the army supply chain, which had to be taken over by U.S. because the Afghan military could not supply its soldiers properly. In interviews some Afghan soldiers even cited corrupt officers as the main reason for leaving.

One of the likely reasons for the decline in Green-on-Blue attacks is the decline in the number of U.S. and NATO troops present in Afghanistan to serve as targets. The number of coalition troops has steadily decreased since 2012 when attacks reached their pinnacle.

As of October, 2016 the U.S. coalition forces numbered about 10,000, compared to about 100,000 in 2010.

The most recent green-on-blue attack took place as the U.S. prepares to deploy 300 Marines to bolster the Afghan army’s fight in Helmand. The Pentagon no doubt must consider the possibility that the return of U.S. troops in substantial numbers to the theater might well be accompanied by a commensurate increase in green-on-blue attacks.

Green-on-blue attacks, when factored into preexisting problems of desertion and endemic corruption, drive a wedge between ISAF and Afghan forces. Exploiting this space is of substantial strategic value for the Taliban. The Taliban’s recent gains clearly illustrate that Afghan forces are largely incapable of defeating the Taliban without substantial closer support from the western coalition, which western military planners know comes as a substantial cost.





Green-on-Blue Attack Serves as a Reminder of Struggle in Afghan Mission

On Wednesday October 19th, an Afghani soldier killed two Americans and left three wounded, after opening fire on Americans at an Afghan Army training facility in Kabul, Afghanistan. The unidentified attacker was killed when troops returned fire.

The attack was reportedly a “green-on-blue” attack, meaning an Afghan soldier or an Afghan police officer makes an attack against international service members. The Taliban have been known to infiltrate the Afghani security forces and make such attacks.

Right after President Obama proclaimed that the U.S intends to pull out and end combat operations did these attacks become popular in 2012; when they rose to account for 15% of coalition deaths. While observers typically attribute such attacks to Taliban infiltration, only about 25% of green-on-blue attacks involved Taliban in 2012.

Since 2008, there have been 92 “green-on-blue” attacks, leaving 150 international troops dead and 187 wounded.

The attack marks the 8th American death in Afghanistan in 2016.

Earlier this year in August more than 100 U.S troops were sent to a Helmand province, Lashkar Gah. Within the month of August one American was killed by the Taliban. The attack left another American and six Afghan soldiers wounded.

Ever since the 9/11 attacks, the United States has operated in support of the Afghani government and made it’s primary strategy an effort to strengthen Afghan security forces, some of which have later turned their guns on Americans.

Since 2001 to 2014 the U.S has been in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. It is estimated that 2,357 US troops were killed during that time. Since 2014 it is estimated 83 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan.

President Obama officially ended the war in Afghanistan in 2014, but troops remain on the ground, some times under very restrictive rules of engagement.. In response to recent Taliban gains U.S. troops were finally permitted to directly target Taliban forces.

President Obama stated at a news conference on October 15th that there are currently 9,800 troops in Afghanistan. They will remain there until January 20th 2017, leaving his successor to determine the next move the U.S will take.

The U.S is not the only country to be campaigning against terrorism.

In August 2003 NATO authorized the United Nations to carry out on a new mission, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan until December 2014. The mission was to enable Afghan authorities and the Afghani government to provide adequate security across their borders. ISAF is NATO’s longest mission to date, with 130,000 troops from 51 nations. 90,000 of those 130,000 troops are American.

Once ISAF’s due date approached in 2014, NATO mandated another mission, the Resolute Support Mission, where 7,006 American troops are active. Launched in 2015 to train, advise and assist Afghan forces. NATO nations have committed to financially supporting the Afghan government until 2017, but may push that date back to 2020.

Despite all these efforts the Taliban control approximately 10 percent of the country, more than at any point since the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate was ousted from power post-9/11.  Another 20 percent of the country remains essentially contested between Taliban and Afghan government forces.