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Continued 'Green on Blue' Violence Halts US Training of Afghans

- Common Dreams staff

One of the key strategies touted by US and NATO military officials for securing appropriate conditions for a withdrawal of coalition soldiers from Afghanistan is the training of Afghan forces strong enough to provide their own defense and security against Taliban forces.

But now, following a string of so-called 'green on blue' assaults where Afghan soldiers have turned their guns on western soldiers, the Washington Post reports that top US commanders have ordered the halt to training of new recruits as they are vetted for ties to insurgent forces.

Last week's move by Special Operations Command to suspend the training of new recruits, according to the Post, followed the Aug. 17 shooting of two American Special Forces members by a new Afghan Local Police recruit at a small outpost in western Afghanistan.

The senior commander in Afghanistan suspended training for all new Afghan recruits until the more than 27,000 Afghan troops working with his command could be re-vetted.

The latest shootings in August brought the monthly total of 'green on blue' killings to 15. Citing NATO officials, the New York Times reports that at least 45 Western military troops, mostly Americans, have been killed in such attacks in the last year.

“Everyone admits there was a lot of international pressure to grow these forces, and the vetting of these individuals was cast aside as an inhibitor,” said a U.S. official who, like other officials, spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.

Though the trend of such killings has been growing over the course of the US/NATO occupation of Afghanistan -- now in its eleventh year -- the US media has only recently started covering the phenomenon closely.

As Tom Engelhardt, editor of the website TomDispatch.com which has followed US war policy in Afghanistan closely for over a decade, wrote recently:

... there is a striking pattern at work that should be front-page news here.  Green-on-blue attacks have been countrywide, in areas of militant insurgency and not; they continue to escalate, and (as far as we can tell) are almost always committed by actual members of the Afghan military or police who have experienced the American project in their country in a particularly up-close and personal way.

In addition, these attacks are, again as far as anyone can tell, in no way coordinated.  They are individual or small group acts, in some cases clearly after significant thought and calculation, in others just as clearly impulsive.  Nonetheless, they do seem to represent a kind of collective vote, not by ballot obviously, nor -- as in Lenin’s phrase about Russia’s deserting peasant soldiers in World War I -- with their feet, but with guns. 

The number of these events is, after all, startling, given that an Afghan who turns his weapon on well-armed American or European allies is likely to die.  A small number of shooters have escaped and a few have been captured alive (including one recently sentenced to death in an Afghan court), but most are shot down.  In a situation where foreign advisors and troops are now distinctly on guard and on edge -- and in some cases are shadowed by armed compatriots (“guardian angels”) whose job it is to protect them from such events -- these are essentially suicidal acts.

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