January 20th, 2012
03:02 PM ET

Rise in killing of NATO troops by Afghans

By Adam Levine, with reporting from Tim Lister and Chris Lawrence

An Afghan soldier's killing of four French troops on Friday brought a disturbing issue to center stage in the long Asian war - attacks by local security forces against coalition troops.

"We believe that they do appear to be increasing in frequency in recent months," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters. "We've seen the numbers increase in recent months, certainly."

The incidents are a mere fraction of the total coalition deaths in the war.  But they may feed a climate of uncertainty and even mutual suspicion between Afghan units and their coalition partners at a time when NATO's International Security Assistance Force is trying to hand over control of more districts and provinces to the Afghan National Army.

The latest killings, in Afghanistan's eastern Kapisa province,  prompted French president Nicolas Sarkozy to suspend its training operations and combat help, saying "the French army is not in Afghanistan to be shot at by Afghan soldiers."

Afghan soldiers and ISAF troops frequently team up and most of their efforts are successful. So, Pentagon officials don't believe there's an inherent problem in working together.

At the same time, Kirby said, "we're certainly concerned about these incidents" and ISAF is reviewing what the military calls "green on blue" attacks.

Earlier this week, the Air Force released its investigation into a 2011 killing of eight American airmen and a security contractor by an Afghan air force officer.

The probe raised questions about the relations of American and other NATO troops to their Afghan counterparts.

The Afghan air force officer, Ahmed Gul, had declared his desire to kill Americans, behaved erratically at work and frequented a mosque known for its anti-American views.

The report suggested that Gul, though acting alone, was influenced by jihadist ideology and also suffering from financial strain.

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal unearthed an ISAF report that raised the alarm about "deep-seated animosity between the supposedly allied forces" and the Afghan military.

Last year, CNN's Tim Lister reported a NATO analysis that found 52 U.S. and allied soldiers killed in attacks between 2005 and June of 2011.

Combat stress was a cause in a third of those situations, according to the analysis. Perhaps more disturbingly, a quarter of the cases were instances of Taliban militants persuading the Afghan soldier to carry out the attack, according to the report.

A senior intelligence official involved in NATO's training program told CNN last June that "battlefield conditions and frequent deployments are the leading causes" of such incidents.

"When you are in the mountains for months, you've just had enough," he said.

The official said cultural differences over the handling of weapons and the attitude of Western soldiers to Afghan women can exacerbate tensions.

Coalition officers often reprimand their Afghan colleagues for lax control of weaponry, and that can breed resentment.

The already waning support for continued U.S. efforts in Afghanistan will likely be further eroded if the American public believes Afghan soldiers pose a risk to the very troops trying to help them.

A November 2011 poll by CNN and ORC found 35% of Americans support the war and 63% oppose it. More than half of those opposed to the war initially favored it back in 2001, the poll found.

If such violence increases, it could further complicate President Barack Obama's strategy to wind down the Afghanistan war. Next year, U.S. troops will begin shifting away from combat to a training and advising role. The goal is to let Afghan security forces increasingly take the lead as the U.S. looks to withdraw most of its troops by the end of 2014.

Afghanistan's growing security force has surpassed 305,000 and is headed towards 352,000 this year.

The United States is withdrawing forces through 2012 that will bring the number of American troops down to 68,000 by next year from over 100,000 after a 33,000 troop surge last year. There will also be 38,000 troops from other NATO countries.

soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. 327th

    4 French soldiers killed as revenge for the Marines acting like 5 year old and pissing on the dead. Thanks a lot USA. We lose soldiers and the thanks we receive are insults to the memory of our dead. I know the enemy is in A-stan, but I can no longer say for sure who our friends are.

    January 23, 2012 at 7:36 am | Reply
  2. Asif

    Well after reading all the comments here I am just amazed. No one here really does care about American soldiers dying unnecessarily, all they want is to kill more muslims. Haven't you guys had enough? There are 1.2 billion muslims in the world. It will be impossible to kill them all. It is better to make peace.

    January 22, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Reply
  3. Skorpio

    Eliminate Muslim clerics and most of the killings will drop drastically. The source of all hatred, terrorism, violence and discrimination lies with Islamic clerics (ayatollahs, muftis, imams, sheiks, mullahs, emyrs, etc.). These evil creatures are the main instigators of most violent actions, they are judges, witnesses, jurors, police and executioners at the same time. Unless these bast@#%s experience the same pain, suffering and anxiety as their victims, nothing is going to change.

    January 22, 2012 at 10:49 am | Reply
    • JAMES PHIFER

      You are why they will be coming for you for the next 100 years, you dare talk about their actions when you have committed genocide against 10 million native americans and stole their land, killed millions of africans during the abominable institution of slavery. You have made enemies that are now burning the candles at both ends to send you into the dustbin of history.

      January 23, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Reply
  4. WareO

    CNN, for all the technical advances in your inventory you should have had someone Q/A this report. The helicopter you demonstrated in this report was nothing close to a CH53....The reporter should have never tried to give credability to the taliban for killing any NATO/US troops. Unless there is evidence, and CNN is willing to show it, they should not speculate on who did what. CNN unfortunately continues to give false hope and battle damage assessments to the enemy without knowing it; then again they might know!

    January 21, 2012 at 11:30 am | Reply
  5. karl

    one little chopper fell to the ground .... 10 mighty men went with god ....pentagon said 'what the crap' .... french ran home with thier tails between their butt .... nato said ' to hell with our god' ....taliban shouted 'did you like that crashing sound?' ... islamists shouted 'praise be allah' ..... western civilization bound to rot !

    January 21, 2012 at 10:24 am | Reply
  6. karl

    US army hasn't won a war since the American Independence. They lost the war of 1812 against canada and brittain; they entered ww1 right at the end of the conflict so to make it seem that the war was won because of them; they needed soviet help to defeat the nazis (counter to popular propogandists american views on ww2, germany lost because of their inability to defeat the advancing armie of the soviet union – and not because of western 'achievements' – look at every batlle and its aftermath to learn the truth); had to drop nuclear bombs over japana cuz they could have not defeated them otherwise; the pussied out in the korean war ... had to give in to the yellow chinese fever; did shit in vietnam; had to cancel advanced stealth fighter program due to one tiny plane being shot down in serbia; ran like hell from mogadishu; were not even able to kill their spy, saddam, in the first gulf war; were not able to do anything in the econd gulf war – other than bring iranian backed islamists to power; are retreating from afghanistan; are freaking out everytime they hear the word cuba; had to abbandon central asia at the command of russia and china; .... should i go on and on and on ?!?

    January 21, 2012 at 10:20 am | Reply
    • AlexShch

      "...had to drop nuclear bombs over japana cuz they could have not defeated them otherwise..." -

      Conversely, US had to drop atomic bombs on Japan in August 6 and 9 because Japan because of the prospective of Japan being defeated too quickly by Soviet Union. Seriously: Soviet invasion of Manchuria in August 1945 involved 1.7 Mill Soviet troops against 1.2 Mill Japanese Kwantung Army. Much larger scale in terms of manpower than anything US was ever involved, i.e., Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

      No atomic bomb would mean that Japanese Kwantung Army surrenders to Soviets in a matter of one month, perhaps by the end of August – mid-September, after which Soviets would naturally demand some role in post-war settlement in/around Japan.

      Drop atomic bombs - Japan surrenders to US (and only to US), ceasefire on all fronts and Soviets were isolated out from any influence on post-war Japan.

      As simple as that.

      January 21, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Reply
      • fagvilleinheaven

        you are right obviously; additionaly, they also droped the bomb because to invade mainland japan the US would have had to put up with many casualties (both military, and japanese civilians who would have killed themselves in mass numbers as they did on all the islands which the US invaded) . .... but for the sake of my argument (no matter how untrue it might be) just agree with my own interpretation – that the US pussied out of a conventional war because they were afraid of the japanese.

        January 22, 2012 at 7:14 am |
      • AlexShch

        @fagvilleinheaven: I understand that in 1995 during the Clinton administration a prevailing theory
        was put together to resolve the controversy of justification and morality of atomic bombing of
        Japan at the end of WW2. This interpretation justifies atomic bombing almost as ...a humanitarian
        act: "it forced Japan to surrender and saved a lot of American soldier's lives who would be killed
        otherwise during a would be occupation of mainland Japan, and ultimately spares Japanese lives
        due to protracted war." I an not kidding, this is what American kids are taught in school nowadays.

        Before the Clinton's reform this matter was a source of controversy, painful consciousness,
        and continuous headache for US historians.

        This theory is kind of easy to believe right now, given the very solid believe in US mightiness
        among the general American public, but it actually does not stand any careful examination by
        a military historian:

        The main question is: Did US had enough military resources to make a successful landing
        operation against mainland Japan in 1945? Were there enough landing craft and enough
        warships in US Navy to support it? Enough logistics to bring enough was supplies,
        ammunition across the Pacific? Simply put, enough soldiers?

        In comparison with landing in Normandy against Germany, there are two major differences
        both of which against US and in favor of Japan: (1) Normandy landing was not directly
        against Germany, but against German troops occupying France (i.e., longer and more
        vulnerable supply routes needed by Germans); and (2) close proximity of Great Britain
        available as the base for invasion, staging ground, and shorter, more convenient supply
        routes.

        The hypothetical landing operation against mainland Japan would not have either of
        these: why US had possession of many islands in the Western Pacific at that time,
        neither of them had proximity to mainland Japan anywhere close to that of Britain to
        French coast. Imagine just a logistical problem to bring one million soldiers to Tinian
        or Okinawa, supply and feed them for several month, and then bring them to a cost
        on mainland Japan? In the case of Normandy invasion the Strait of English channel
        is only 20 miles wide. It is feasible to cross it by small crafts. Now, against Japan the
        landing crafts must be brought by bigger ships and launched from offshore. US had
        this technical capability, but not in numbers anywhere close to what was needed
        against mainland Japan.

        So a direct invasion in August-September 1945 was not an option at all.

        What US was successful at that time is enforcing naval blockade against Japan
        and running massive bombing raids (by the way, more Japanese people got killed
        from conventional bombing than from atomic). This would gradually wear out
        Japanese war machinery. So if Japan did not surrender in mid-August 1945, the
        most likely scenario is that US would simply continue doing what it was being
        doing: time worked in favor of US and against Japan.

        Events in the Continental Asia at the same time: with the involvement of Soviet
        Union Japanese Kwantung army was collapsing, and this is basically a matter of
        one month before this process is complete. Again, the same reasons: Japanese
        army was acting on a hostile territory, long supply routes from Japanese mainland
        (some of which are completely cut off due to US naval blockade), and overall
        degraded war machinery. Also, Soviet involvement triggered upraisings against
        occupying Japanese forces elsewhere throughout the Continent - Vietnam,
        Korea, China, etc.. Time works against Japan here as well.

        Then what? By mid-fall 1945 Japan is completely defeated on the Continent with
        much of the troops there captured or killed, but not able to return to the mainland.
        Supply of resources such as oil and minerals to the mainland Japan completely cut
        off.

        Then what? Japan still does not surrender? Unlikely, but with some stretch of
        imagination it is time for invasion to the mainland...

        Staging grounds? Two possibilities
        1) Sakhalin Island retaken by Soviets on the north - this is the easiest route,
        given its proximity to Japan (La Pérouse Strait is only 25 miles wide), and the
        availability of help from Soviet Union who was US ally at that time. But the
        political drawback is self-obvious as well: Soviets got involved in post-war
        Japan.

        2) Invasion from the south from Okinawa as the staging ground. This is actually
        much harder because of the distances involved, and besides here US is entirely
        on its own.

        So you drive the conclusions yourselves.

        I personally do not believe in the US official theory of the necessity of atomic
        bombing of Japan, and flatly dismiss the rationale of humanitarian aspect of it
        as saving lives of US and Japanese soldiers. The bombing was mainly needed
        to (1) show everybody in the World (but primarily to Stalin) that US has atomic
        bomb, and it has real power; and (2) to end the War with Japan on US purely
        terms not compromising it by Soviet involvement (other than what was already
        agreed in Potsdam that USSR takes the entire Sakhalin Island and all Kurill
        Islands, although the last four of them are still sometimes debatable in some
        minds).

        January 22, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  7. Iranacockuptheirass

    damn French...kill 4 and they wanna go home...what kind of pussyass support is that. May 5000 camels shit french fries covered in semen down the throat of your leaders....

    January 20, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Reply
    • AlexShch

      You don't get it: 4 French soldiers killed means Sarcozy defeat in French presidential election... ...unless he makes a populistic trick right now.

      January 21, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Reply
      • fagvilleinheaven

        the most populist trick would be for france to undertake another crusade into islamic (hence, herectic) iran.

        January 22, 2012 at 7:16 am |
  8. rk from NY

    the only way to end this war is to focus on the real enemy..pak...which is a hub of terror...all terrorists in afghan are coming from pak...US should urgently focus on securing paki nukes and isolating them totally..that will bring them to their knees..they have nothing except terror camps..there is no real GDP or export except terror....once pak is controlled and weakened only then our forces will be safe in afpak and this war can be successfully winded down...

    January 20, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Reply
    • Galoot

      rk from NY,

      You're making far too much sense. lol!

      January 20, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Reply
    • AlexShch

      The problem with this idea is that Pakistan is a country with >170 Million population and a pretty sizable army.
      Thus far US fought only against countries which were

      1) much smaller. e.g., Serbia 11M ; Afghanistan 26M ; Iraq 17M ; Libya 6M
      and
      2) having being under a comprehensive arms embargo for at lest 10 years prior of being attacked by US;

      It took about 130,000 marines to take Iraq, and a similar number to take Afghanistan.

      So I guess, in practical terms US needs to assemble an army of 2 million marines in order to take Pakistan.

      How many marines are available?

      January 22, 2012 at 12:15 am | Reply
      • PAKinUS

        US would get its a$$ kicked and would not know what hit them. They cannot defend against an enemy from within

        January 22, 2012 at 11:26 am |

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