By Wesley Bruer
The killing and capture of Taliban leaders and facilitators indicates Afghan and coalition troops are aggressively targeting those insurgents involved in "green on blue" attacks, which have accounted for more than 50 coalition deaths this year.
In addition to taking extreme measures to ensure safety while effectively training their Afghan counterparts, coalition forces have made it a priority to share and utilize intelligence to kill or capture anyone responsible for the insider attacks.
On Monday, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed the death of a Taliban member believed to be behind a May 11 insider attack. The casualty report stated that "an individual wearing an Afghan National Army uniform has turned his weapon against coalition service members," which left one service member dead.
The insurgent, identified as "Mahmood," was killed in a precision airstrike in Kunar Province on September 15 in what the assistance force said was "the result of Afghan and coalition efforts to track down and find insurgents involved with insider attacks."
Insider attacks have reached an all-time high and are a leading cause of coalition deaths in the war in Afghanistan this year. This past weekend alone, "green on blue" attacks resulted in six coalition deaths, including four American and two British soldiers.
Drastic security measures have been imposed to curb the attacks.
Soldiers are required to have a loaded weapon within reach at all times and training has ended for hundreds of Afghan soldiers while their backgrounds are checked further for insurgent links. However, there appears to be no way to completely remove the threat.
Monday's assistance force report is the third this month announcing the death or capture of insurgents involved in "green on blue" attacks.
On September 15, Afghan and coalition forces captured a "Taliban forger" in Nangarhar who allegedly provided insurgents with fake identification and documents to attempt to infiltrate Afghan army forces.
Earlier in September, Afghan and Australian forces carried out a joint operation based on "detailed intelligence" that led to the capture of an insurgent facilitator who when detained was "attempting to support and move the insider threat shooter who killed three Australian soldiers and wounded two on Aug. 29."
According to a Defense Department official, most of the insider attacks are believed to be the result of Afghan soldiers suffering from combat or emotional stress. Only 15% are believed to be the result of insurgent links and 10% are said to come from infiltrators not affiliated with the military.
Speaking at a media roundtable on September 13, Australian Brig. Gen. Roger Noble, the assistance force deputy chief of staff for operations, noted that no motivation was known in 23% of the insider attacks. This is because the attacker was either killed, as was the case of an August 17 attack, or the shooter escaped, as "Mahmood" did on May 11 after gunning down one soldier.
But the value of successful insider attacks to the Taliban is evident in a video, "Ghazi of Ghaziabad," released by the Taliban.
"Ghazi Mahmood," still dressed in his Afghan army uniform, approaches a village and is given a hero's welcome by dozens of insurgents and children eagerly waiting to greet him.
He is led to a procession where he is draped with flowers and met with hugs and handshakes. Later in the video, Mahmood appears alongside Mawlawi Abdul Jalal, the Taliban's Ghaziabad shadow governor in Kunar province where "Mahmood" is reported to have been killed. The term "Ghazi" refers to those who have been successful in their fight against the infidel.
According to the assistance force, Mahmood was killed alongside "more than a dozen armed insurgents, including several Taliban leaders operating in the region," suggesting he had insurgent links.
But one can not say with certainty whether Mahmood was an infiltrator, or an Afghan soldier turned insurgent. In either case, the Taliban clearly welcomed Mahmood's actions and encourage others to carry out similar attacks, which have strained the patience of top military officials.