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3 US Soldiers Dead in Latest 'Green-on-Blue' Attack

Trend of Afghan soldiers killing US counterparts speaks to 'mission failure' in Afghanistan

Common Dreams staff

Several so-called green-on-blue attacks by Afghan soldiers or police on coalition troops have led to mistrust between the allies. (Photograph: Sardar/Xinhua Press/Corbis)

Three US special forces soldiers were killed Friday when a man in Afghan uniform turned his weapon on them, the US military said, in the third so-called "green-on-blue" attack in less than a week.

Reports varied on the exact circumstances surrounding the killings, but the New York Times reports that "a man dressed as an Afghan police officer" killed the soldiers "after inviting them to eat dinner at a check post in southern Afghanistan." The Times, cited an Afghan official who said that attack appeared to be "a premeditated killing" by American soldiers by their Afghan allies.

"The police checkpost commander invited four foreign special forces soldiers to a (Ramadan) breakfast at 2:30 am in Sangin district," a senior security officer in the Helmand province told Agence France Presse, requesting anonymity.

"He later opened fire on the special forces soldiers, killing three and wounding another, and he managed to run away."

The latest deaths take the green-on-blue toll this year to around 33, in some 23 such incidents, according to an AFP tally.

This trend, according to foreign policy experts, has long been on the rise in Afghanistan, and the most recent incidents -- beyond the immediate loss of life -- speak to a US war strategy in tatters.

"In 2007-2008, there were only four green-on-blue attacks, resulting in four deaths," wrote Tom Engelhardt, editor of and a close observer and critic of US policy in Afghanistan, in a recent piece that looked specifically at the increase of green-on-blue attacks.

At first, Engelhardt writes, NATO officials explained away the phenomenon by claiming it was "Taliban infiltrators" who were to blame. As the assaults increased and evidence mounted that it was - at least in many cases - US trained Afghan troops behind the assaults, NATO's narrative became more untenable.

"In fact," he continued, "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."

Engelhardt, who argues that the US and NATO mission, in reality, "died in Afhanistan years ago," says the green-on-blue violence is virtually unprecedented in history, and that NATO officials, members of Congress, and the US media miss the message of this violence by ignoring its significance.

"What we’re seeing in the most violent form imaginable is a sweeping message from our Afghan allies, the very security forces Washington plans to continue bolstering up long after the 2014 drawdown date for U.S. “combat forces” passes.  To the extent that bullets can be translated into words, that message, uncompromising and bloody-minded, would be something like: your mission’s failed, get out or die."

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