KABUL — Scrambling to respond to a spate of shootings that has deepened mistrust between Afghan and coalition troops, the Afghan military has produced a new manual to educate its troops on the ways of their Western counterparts, one of several steps announced Thursday to stem the threat of so-called green on blue attacks.
“In the area of cultural awareness, we are trying to educate our soldiers and to understand the sensitivities of the culture of the Western partners and at the same time, (coalition leaders) are working hard to teach their soldiers about our cultures,” Afghan Ministry of Defense spokesman Gen. Mohammed Zaher Azimi said at a joint press conference with British Lt. Gen. Adrian Bradshaw, deputy commander of the International Security Assistance Force.
Copies of the manual were not provided. They exist only in Dari, and also do not appear on the MOD website.
Bradshaw said coalition forces, too, are adding to their cultural training with input from Afghan army religious and cultural affairs advisers.
Azimi reiterated that hundreds of troops have been detained as a result of investigators taking a second look at their records — some for incomplete paperwork or forgeries. He would not release precise numbers on how many have been detained or how many of those had insurgent ties.
The coalition estimates that only 25 percent of the attacks are related to the insurgency, but the focus at Thursday’s news conference was the effort to re-vet the roughly 350,000 troops in the Afghan security forces, a process seemingly aimed at weeding out those with insurgent sympathies.
Bradshaw said ISAF and the Afghan government had formed joint counter-intelligence teams to watch for possible turncoats and Azimi said hundreds of agents from the Afghan intelligence service have joined the effort to weed out extremists. He added that he recently addressed the Afghan National Security Council about the attacks.
“Be in no doubt, this issue has firm, top-level attention,” Bradshaw said.
In a reflection of the atmosphere of distrust that has surrounded the shootings, most of which the coalition has blamed on cultural misunderstandings and disputes, two Afghan reporters complained of unequal treatment in the searching of local reporters for access to ISAF headquarters, though a Stars and Stripes reporter witnessed all journalists being subjected to the same search.
“If this happened to an Afghan soldier, there would be a problem,” one reporter said.
After months of downplaying the shootings — 45 international troops have been killed this year in “green on blue” shootings — coalition officials have acknowledged the attacks as a rising trend, though they still stress the incidents are rare.
“Set against a vastly increased amount of interaction (between coalition and Afghan troops), the number of attacks are very small,” Bradshaw said. “Nevertheless, we are determined to defeat this threat.”