U.S. Gen. John Allen, who commands the NATO-led coalition force in Afghanistan, testified about the situation in Afghanistan during a March 22 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
His testimony came amid growing tensions in Afghanistan prompted by a U.S. soldier allegedly killing 17 civilians, including women and children, on March 11 and American military personnel accidentally burning Korans at a military base on Feb. 20.
These incidents have prompted the killing of coalition forces by Afghan security forces and are considered “insider” attacks and officially labeled “green on blue” killings by the U.S. military.
At the hearing, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) asked Gen. Allen, “How many ISAF and American personnel have died as a result of green-on-blue attacks? And how many such attacks are still currently under investigation?”
“I'll have to get you the final number on the numbers under investigation, but we've had 52 Americans who have been killed and another 60 or so -- 68 -- who have been wounded since 2007 when we first started to track these events,” responded the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.
The number of “green on blue” fatal attacks may be greater given that the Afghanistan war has been raging since October 2001, but the Pentagon has only been keeping track of such deaths since May 2007.
Gen. Allen mentioned that of the 52 “green on blue” deaths since 2007, six have taken place “this calendar year” alone.
However, a seventh soldier was killed by Afghan security forces in February, but the Pentagon did not reveal the treachery, the Associated Press reported on March 16. That would bring the total of American deaths at the hands of their Afghan counterparts to 53.
When testifying about the state of the Afghanistan war before the House Armed Services Committee on March 21, Gen. Allen acknowledged that some of the “insider” killings have been fueled by the recent incidents that have undermined the U.S. mission, such as the unintentional burning of a few dozen Korans.
Media reports suggest that all “green on blue” killings of U.S. soldiers this year have taken place after the accidental burning of the Koran on Feb. 20.
Gen. Allen told the Senate panel on March 22 that “insider” attacks have not “tapered off.”
The top-commander highlighted steps that U.S. and Afghanistan officials are taking to reduce the number of “insider” killings.
Afghanistan has “improved the vetting process of individuals who are coming into the Afghan national army and police with an eight-step vetting process, which includes a requirement to have a valid ID card, letters of endorsement or recommendation from village elders and other aspects, criminal background check and so on,” he said.
Gen. Allen said the eight-step vetting process has only been in place for “months,” without specifying how many months.
There is an “unprecedented level of cooperation” between the United States and Afghanistan “to embed counterintelligence agents from the NDS [U.S. National Defense Strategy] in basic training, in the basic training schools, the follow-on schools and, ultimately to have counterintelligence operatives working closely” with the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF), Gen. Allen testified.
In the beginning of February, before the U.S. soldier allegedly killed 17 Afghan civilians prompting the “insider” perpetrated deaths of Americans so far this year, Pentagon officials told the House Armed Services Committee that about 70 coalition soldiers from multiple countries have been fatal victims of “green on blue” attacks since 2007.
Since May 2007, there have been “42 green-on-blue events involving ANSF personnel and three (3) involving private security companies (PSC),” said the Pentagon.
“The attacks resulted in the deaths of approximately 70 coalition personnel and approximately 110 wounded.”
The Pentagon mentioned that the “green on blue” incidents are categorized as co-option, infiltration, impersonation, and personal.
Co-option is “when an existing ANSF [Afghan National Security Force] member is recruited to assist or act on behalf of the insurgency” and circumvents the screening and vetting process, noted the Pentagon.
According to CNSNews.com’s tally, at least 1,800 U.S. soldiers have been killed in and around Afghanistan since the war started in October 2001.
Afghan forces are expected to take over their country’s security responsibilities by the end of 2014. U.S. military officials have said that a residual American force will remain in the country beyond that point. However, the scope of that force has not been decided yet.
Given the current tensions, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has asked the United States to speed up its military withdrawal.