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2012: Year in review

US forces find it hard to trust Afghans after insider attacks

Trust between Afghan and international forces reached a low point this year as instances of Afghan soldiers turning their weapons on their coalition counterparts became a nearly weekly occurrence.

Nearly 50 so-called green-on-blue attacks (later renamed “insider threats” by the international military coalition) claimed the lives of at least 63 coalition troops, mostly American, according to an Associated Press count. More than 85 troops were wounded. The spate of killings exposed both a profound lack of cultural understanding between Afghans and Westerners after 11 years of war and an effective new tactic from insurgents who successfully turned a number of the attackers.

The attacks led some commanders to forbid coalition troops from walking through Afghan installations on bases, and some troops were required to wear body armor during training of Afghan forces. The violence threatens the fragile partnership between foreign troops and Afghans at a crucial moment, as NATO plans its withdrawal of combat troops and hand-over of military responsibility to Afghans by the end of 2014.

Officials with the international military coalition in Afghanistan struggled to frame the attacks, first calling them “isolated,” then claiming they arose mostly from misunderstandings, until the killings became so regular they took steps to reduce them, including revetting the entire Afghan National Security Forces.

As Stars and Stripes reported at the height of the killings, the military had ignored a 2011 report that warned of the looming crisis, firing and publicly criticizing the author. As the number of killings increased, the military quietly started using the report in planning to combat the violence.

The attacks have tailed off in recent weeks, but a recent Pentagon report acknowledged that “green-on-blue” violence has “the potential to significantly disrupt the Coalition mission in Afghanistan.”

A new U.S. Army handbook on the attacks mentions well over 300 casualties resulting from them since 2007, according to a recent report.

druzinh@estripes.osd.mil

Twitter: @Druzin_Stripes

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