by Azam Ahmed
New York Times
Feb. 12, 2014
KABUL, Afghanistan — Two people wearing Afghan security forces uniforms opened fire on American-led coalition soldiers in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing two of the soldiers, officials said.
The episode was the first reported instance in 2014 of what are called green-on-blue attacks, in which uniformed Afghans suddenly turn their weapons on their Western allies. While the frequency of those attacks has fallen sharply from a peak in 2012, the threat has not ended.
The International Security Assistance Force, as the coalition is formally known, remained tight-lipped about the episode late on Wednesday, giving no further details and saying only that, along with Afghan officials, it was “assessing the incident to determine the facts.”
After 64 coalition soldiers were killed in green-on-blue attacks in 2012, both the coalition and Afghan officials who were concerned about the fallout from the attacks took a number of steps meant to prevent them.
The toll declined to 16 deaths in 2013. But one of the biggest factors in the decline has been the reduced presence of international forces, as coalition members have withdrawn troops and the Afghans have taken on more responsibility.
The NATO mission has almost completely ceased conducting joint combat operations with Afghan troops, concentrating instead on training work, and even then mainly at higher command levels. As a result, coalition soldiers are much less often in situations that leave them vulnerable to green-on-blue attacks. These days, nearly the only foreign troops conducting combat missions are American Special Operations forces, who continue to work closely with their Afghan counterparts.
Some officials have expressed a fear that, as the international role in the war winds down this year, the impetus for the attacks among the Afghan security forces may grow. As NATO soldiers withdraw and the Afghan security forces are left to fend for themselves in hostile areas of the country, more soldiers and police officers may become susceptible to joining the insurgency as a means of survival, a situation that has already started to happen in some areas.