Insider threat: One third of all 2012 US troop deaths at hands of Afghan security forces
A US servicemember stands a post on a hill in Afghanistan. (CNN Photo)
March 27th, 2012
03:48 AM ET

Insider threat: One third of all 2012 US troop deaths at hands of Afghan security forces

By Larry Shaughnessy

One third of all American troop deaths in Afghanistan this year has been at the hands of Afghan security forces.

The latest occurred Monday when a man alleged to be a local Afghan policeman killed an American service member in eastern Afghanistan.

So far this year, 16 of the 46 American service members killed in Afghanistan have died in what are euphemistically called "green on blue" attacks: Afghan troops who have turned their weapons on allied forces.

Also Monday, two British troops were shot and killed by an Afghan soldier in the southern province of Helmand, NATO and Afghan officials said.

"There is an erosion of trust that has emerged from this," Gen. John Allen, the commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, told an audience at the Brookings Institution on Monday. "But I believe that the relationship is very strong nonetheless."

Allen said ISAF officials are working on a new procedure to check the backgrounds of Afghans who sign up for the army or police force, and the Afghans "have taken a lot of steps themselves."

"They've worked very closely within the national director of security to place counterintelligence operatives inside their schools, inside their recruiting centers, and inside the ranks, the idea being to spot and assess the potential emergence of an individual who could be an extremist or, in fact, a Taliban infiltrator," he said.

"The Taliban, of course, takes credit for all of them when, in fact, the majority are not, in fact, a direct result of Taliban infiltration," Allen said.

Allen said that the systems the Afghans and ISAF have in place to help stop these attacks before they happen is having an effect.

"There have been some breakthroughs, in fact, in Afghan investigations, in arrests that have been made of elements that have been found in ranks that potentially could have been a perpetrator for a green-on-blue. So the process is actually working.”

Monday's deaths bring to 93 the number of coalition service members who have died in Afghanistan this year.

In some attacks, insurgents have disguised themselves as Afghan soldiers in order to infiltrate bases. But the incidents have fueled mutual distrust at a critical juncture of the long-running conflict.

The latest killings come after a shooting rampage in Afghanistan this month left 17 villagers dead in the Panjwai district of southern Kandahar province. A U.S. soldier, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, has been charged with murder in the slayings.

Speaking after the deaths of the two British soldiers on Monday, Allen said he could not discount revenge as a factor.

"I don't connect the two of those, but in any case it is prudent for us to recognize that, as you know, revenge is an important dimension in this culture," Allen said. "I have seen no indications yet that it has emerged as a potential factor, but we will certainly keep an eye on it."

Disputes can arise from cultural misunderstanding, religious and ideological friction or combat stress, said Brig. Gen. Stephen Townsend, director of the Pakistan/Afghanistan Coordination Cell in the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff office.

Townsend said cultural training has been vital for U.S. soldiers, and now the Afghans are considering the same to provide a better understanding of Americans.

The Helmand governor on Monday praised ISAF troops for their sacrifices and assistance to the Afghan people.

"The enemies of the people and peace want to finish confidence among Afghan and ISAF forces, but they will never cover their evil aims by carrying out such violent acts," he said in a statement.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Gen. Allen • ISAF • NATO
soundoff (25 Responses)
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  4. The Patriot


    While I agree with what you have to say about what President Obama discussed, it seems apparent that you have an immature way of getting your point across. Diplomacy needs a touch of humility in the sense that a world power such as our country asking for help from a country who has long been an opposition to our cause in democracy due to relations through the cold war. We were once allies also, so it isn't far fetched to open the door to invite negotiations towards a solution to the current problem, however, the way you come across to "Lack of Wisdom" reveals your wisdom as well. If your goal is to enlighten or share your views with others in a conversation of knowledgeable value then to brashly criticize them in this manner will usually make them STOP listening to your view of which you are attempting to get across. Furthermore it is making you look simple as well. Yes, I think it is time to leave Afghanistan and I am leaving here in a few months and good riddance. I would recommend for all of us to leave. Day in and day out watching our brothers in arms die here is difficult. When will the Afghanistan National Army be ready? I think never or not soon at least, however we are here with NATO allies and we can't just pull out of Afghanistan like we did in Iraq. Iraq was all US Forces when we left. I just left there in 2010. The political repercussions of a rapid withdrawal would be harsh when it came to negotiating in a future forum of similar circumstances where trust of the US staying with the fight will be put into question. This affects our ability to negotiate NATO involvement in the future and will withdraw the inclination that the US has weight in any such negotiations. That directly affects our ability to be taken seriously. Lives are being lost day by day but how many more could be lost in possible future conflicts when we have no strength in our words? I want our Soldiers home now too but we have to do it right and with caution to 2nd and third order affects. 10 years and it's time to go soon. Afghanistan needs to be put on notice that we will be leaving and they have. I can't criticize Obama for that nor am I qualified to do that. I think he is making the best decision available to make despite my disdain for the loss of friends.

    April 4, 2012 at 7:29 am | Reply
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  6. dukeofyashima

    The article presents the story but doesn't nearly get far enough into the causes. Were all of the Green-on-Blue kills from Taliban intruders? Of those that weren't, what are the demographics of the attackers? Were they Pashtun? Were they loyal to President Karzai or within his clan? Does CNN do any investigative reporting at all?

    March 27, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Reply

    lol, us soldiers should be sent back home.

    March 27, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Reply
  8. Clinton

    We had situations like this occur in Iraq as well. It's really hard to feel safe in an enviroment where anyone is a potential lethal threat. The brave men and women that face this every day deserve an end to this conflict. I am so mad at our Government for not concluding this war sooner. Afghanistan harbored Al Quaeda and those that mastermind the 9/11 attacks... We pushed them out of afghanistan and killed their leader.... It's time to leave afghanistan, why are we trying to build a nation there.... let the people of Afghanistan determine their future... It's fairly obvious they don't want us there... and honestly, what do we have to gain from staying? Declare victory and leave. Our soldiers did their job.

    March 27, 2012 at 11:46 am | Reply
  9. 4commonsensenow

    Must be very challenging walking around that country trying to figure out who is against you and who is not.Far from a video game kids.

    March 27, 2012 at 9:38 am | Reply
    • Cacut

      Nationalizing the military-industrial lcopmex sounds terrific to me. All that stuff has to be made in America, doesn't it? And that means jobs! The military has sold its soul to barely regulated contractors and they should be ashamed that Haliburton does what the military branches should do for themselves. These contractors shirk basic labor laws when they should be regulated to hire Americans first instead of being allowed to recruit in the Philippines and Indonesia for those folks who are so poor they'll take pennies on the dollar per hour. Haliburton should be investigated for war profiteering and slave labor.

      April 6, 2012 at 11:50 pm | Reply
  10. michaelfury

    "There is an erosion of trust that has emerged from this" "insider threat" also:

    March 27, 2012 at 7:36 am | Reply

    When the very people that you are defending and training are turning against you and attack you and kill you than it is lost.
    obama seems to be weak and not respected on the world stage by the thugs. yesterday when obama was ASKING RUSSIA for something in relation to his re-election it is a shame . After the support of russia in the syrian slaughter of the women and children obama should have never been asking russia for help . obama is weak in foreign policy and when he stooped to asking russia for help in re-election in front of cameras it is a joke. What the hell is THE PRESIDENT OF THE USA ASKING RUSSIA FOR ANYTHING ? this is a shame . so we know that while obama seemed to be concerned about nukes he was in fact thinking about re-election and that was caught on tape for the entire world to see.

    March 27, 2012 at 6:46 am | Reply
    • Clinton

      Lack of Wisdom – Your name says it all buddy. You lack wisdom, you also lack basic understanding of the English language if you think Obama was talking about his re-election you idiot. Obama was talking to Medvedev about the Missle shield program in Europe that the US has been pushing for, for years. The Russian President was explaining that he will pass it on to Putin since HE, THE RUSSIAN PRESIDENT, is done with his term and Putin, won the election. Maybe you should study what happened before making REALLY STUPID comments on message boards. The President was asking the Russian President to continue talks on this important defense initiative... What would you prefer our President do? NOT CONDUCT DIPLOMACY!? IT's morons like you that think the world is better off if we just go to war with everybody we don't like instead of engaging in Diplomacy.

      March 27, 2012 at 11:42 am | Reply
      • Stan Iverson

        Amen to that, Clinton!

        March 27, 2012 at 9:24 pm |

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