Green-on-Blue Attacks in Afghanistan

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Middle East In Focus

This week marked a grim milestone in the United States’ involvement in Afghanistan, as an American soldier gunned down by allied Afghan soldiers became the 2,000th U.S. military casualty in “Operation Enduring Freedom.” Eleven years since the start of operations in the country, the increasing incidence of attacks by allied Afghani troops, known as green-on-blue attacks, has cast further doubts on the sustainability of the international forces’ efforts in pushing back against the Taliban and establishing a credible government in Kabul.

One of the main questions raised by latest incident is whether there is any trust left between U.S. and Afghani troops and what that might mean for the future of Afghanistan. That question was very much in the minds of the Peninsula editorial staff, who worry that “At a time when Afghanistan is gradually receding from the collective memory of the U.S. public, even during an election period, the latest killing is likely to jolt the public from stupor on events in Afghanistan….The deepening distrust between U.S. and Afghan troops threatens the transition process and the very future of the country….Eleven years into the war, NATO troops and Afghan soldiers are still beset by a dangerous lack of cultural awareness. There is no solution in sight to the problem. And that makes us worry about the future of Afghanistan.”

Concerned about the implications for the Karzai-led government in Kabul, the Gulf Times editorial considers the pressures on the Afghani recruits, which, among other factors, might contribute to the recent spate of these attacks: “The infiltration of the Taliban into the Afghan army has seen an increase in the number of insider attacks, and a decline in the number of suicide bombings.  In addition to this, is the perceived offence caused by cultural differences between the Afghan and foreign troops…. Military service has often been a way out of poverty for many Afghan recruits. But the violence of the posting and the dearth of adequate food rations have often stressed out soldiers and the pressure has often resulted in deadly rampages. The additional impetus of Afghan soldiers being torn between tribal loyalties and official duties has also seen many foreign troops being attacked openly by their local colleagues in conflict situations.

For the Khaleej Times staff, however, the attacks highlight the vulnerability of the international forces in Afghanistan and, more importantly, signal the need for an exit from the country: “The new strategy with which [the Taliban] are attacking the foreign troops is worrisome. It has not only made the expedition to stay in Afghanistan deadly but quite unpopular back at home. The so-called green-on-blue attacks are on the rise, and now they have broadened to the extent that even contractors and civilians are being used to target the coalition forces….The attacks are now being executed on roadsides and well within the fortified compounds by sympathizers of the militia — who incidentally come in contact with the coalition troops. It seems no amount of precaution is of any help. The inside attacks should be read as an SOS to exit in all humility.”

The Pakistan Observer is even more scathing in its evaluation of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and takes particular aim at the criticism leveled against Pakistan by the United States: “It is noteworthy that with the passage of time resistance against the occupation forces in Afghanistan is increasingly raising serious questions about claims of success by the coalition forces in their 11-year war [and about the] future of the war-torn country. The fighting in Afghanistan is taking new dimensions and increasing in severity and the confused occupation forces are trying to shift the burden of blame on factors other than their own strategy…. It is regrettable that instead of realizing their follies, Americans are still indulging in blame-game…that the situation in Afghanistan has improved but more needed to be done about the ‘sanctuaries in Pakistan.’ This is reflective of strategic bankruptcy that would add and not lessen woes of the occupation forces.”

Yet, there are those who are not interested in keeping a scorecard, but are concerned about the effect that the increasing instability in Afghanistan has for the Afghanis and the nation-building effort in the country: “Afghanistan seems to be in a state of deadlock — one that is costing the country dearly. Not only has such a state had serious implications on the livelihood of its citizens, but it has also thwarted the efforts of nation-building….Afghanistan today lives a tragic reality. For one thing, security has yet to be attained fully and across all its parts. This is much needed to ensure stability that will allow carrying out critical nation-building projects. And this highlights another important issue — the state of reconstruction efforts that aim to provide the people of Afghanistan with better infrastructure, health care and education.”

Finally, in an effort to win the hearts and the minds of the Afghanis, there has been a sustained effort on the part of some newspapers in Afghanistan to appeal to the people directly. For example, Outlook Afghanistan urges the Afghanis to resist the Taliban and to come to the defense of the gains that have been made so far: “It is clear that Afghan people are not innately disposed to exercise violence. Violence is the way adopted by the Taliban militants and other insurgent groups. They continue to kill innocent people, destroy roads and burn schools. But Afghan people want to live in security and peace. They are tired of the way Taliban operate and explode….Local people can greatly contribute to security and peace by repudiating the Taliban militants and other insurgents….The people can be genuine and strong soldiers to defend the country and system against the resurgence of Taliban militants and foreign fighters and keep them at bay.”

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Middle East In Focus is a synopsis of commentary and news from Middle Eastern and other international media. Its purpose is to provide a succinct and balanced summary of the main developments and views that are often overlooked or not properly reflected in the U.S. media. For the most recent collection of articles on and from the Middle East, please go to: Comments and feedback are welcome at

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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