LIVE VIDEO: WTLV Live Video_1    Watch
 

'Green on Blue' attacks lead to Afghan security changes

2:46 PM, Nov 5, 2012   |    comments
Capt. Greg Schneider (left), meets with Afghan Border Police last month at their headquarters near Taghaz. (Photo: Colin Kelly, Marine Corps Times )
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +

TAGHAZ, Afghanistan -- Marines here say that the rash of insider attacks on NATO troops has not impeded operations against the Taliban nor sown distrust between Afghans and U.S. troops. But they are taking precautions they had not in the past.

Marines who have been assisting Afghans here at the headquarters for the Afghanistan Border Police don't go to the bathroom alone. Someone is assigned to be on the lookout for suspicious behavior in the Afghan ranks, and guards are now posted outside when the Marines are eating.

At the highest levels, military commanders have reinforced the need for deployed Marines and other coalition troops to have a "guardian angel" in their midst, an armed individual who watches over his comrades.

"It is absolutely prudent that if there are four of us sitting here, that one guy is kind of roaming around and paying attention to things inside and the outside," a senior Marine official in Afghanistan said. "He's the Guardian Angel. You and I may know who he is, or we may not know who he is."

The official requested anonymity so he could speak freely.

The killing of at least 52 coalition forces this year by Afghan soldiers and police - or insurgents wearing their uniforms - has made many wary of the possibility that someone they are working alongside could try to kill them.

A similar number of Afghan police and soldiers have died in the same manner. Four Afghan police officers were shot dead Friday in southern Helmand province in an insider attack, said police chief Mohammad Toryali. The shooting happened at a police outpost during a shift change. The killers fled.

U.S. troops have been told by superiors they must move forward with their training and assistance to the Afghan National Security Forces, but they are never to let their guard down.

Maj. Max Hopkins is the commander of the Marine Border Adviser Team 1 here in Helmand province's Khanashin district. He said precautions have been implemented but they were not because of a poor relationship between his team and the Afghans.

He says the Afghan police commander here has rejected new recruits because they did not have good enough references.

"If he doesn't trust them, he doesn't hire them," Hopkins says.

When a rash of so-called green-on-blue killings this summer occurred, the commander Lt. Col. Rasoul, who like many Afghans goes by one name, assembled his forces and stressed there would be stiff consequences if any member of his unit attacked a Marine, said 1st Lt. John Behrmann, a Marine adviser.

"He said, 'It's your job to keep them safe. They left their families in America to come help us,'" Behrmann said. "That was reassuring."''

In Sangin district, where fighting has been heavy at times, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, out of Twentynine Palms, Calif., emotions ran high when the killings spiked elsewhere.

In August, a Marine was sharing a security post with an Afghan soldier when the Afghan chambered a round in his rifle to intimidate the Marine, said Lt. Col. David Bradney, the battalion commander. The Marine tossed him from the 11-foot tower and handcuffed him. The Afghan was put in a detention facility.

Bradney said one key to a secure environment is to show the Afghans that Marines will not tolerate bad behavior of any kind.

"If some (Afghan soldier) slingshots a round because he doesn't like that you're not giving him a bottle of water, and you let that go, then what happens next?" Bradney said. "He walks on post with the round sling-shotted and shoots you in the gut."

Bradney said the Afghan soldiers and police in Sangin were mostly cooperative when the Marines insisted on new security precautions, such as insisting that Afghan weapons be stored in armories on partnered bases rather than kept in Afghan possession alone.

"We just told them: 'If we have one [green-on-blue] incident in Sangin, life as you know it will ... stop," he said. "So watch your people, make sure you understand what's at stake."

Bradney said his battalion was careful to watch out for trouble before a rise in insider attacks. "Spies" were assigned to observe Afghan forces and armed "shadows" watched over the Marines, he said.

Sgt. Maj. Harrison Tanksley, the top enlisted Marine in Afghanistan, said the attacks made it necessary to "reassess how you are conducting business" but at the same time it was important to continue showing trust in the Afghans.

"We cannot afford to let our guard down anymore," he said. "But, just like we have to respect their customs, they also have to respect our customs."

Dan Lamothe, Marine Corps Times

Most Watched Videos