Photo Credit: The New York Times/ Bryan Denton

Both NATO and the Afghan government have taken steps recently to stem a growing number of “insider” attacks by Afghan soldiers against their Western counterparts. Thirty-two such attacks have killed 40 coalition service members this year, according to the AFP, amounting to 13 percent of all international coalition deaths in 2012. As the U.S. and other coalition nations move from an active military role to a mentoring one, these so-called “green-on-blue” attacks could pose a serious threat to the partnerships that will be crucial for building Afghan capacity ahead of the 2014 drawdown of U.S. forces.

The Washington Post’s Kevin Sieff reports today that Afghan officials have launched an effort to spy on their own army and police recruits and have implemented stronger vetting procedures for new hires, while NATO has ordered its service members to carry a loaded weapon at all times and activated a “Guardian Angel” program to ensure that one soldier in each meeting with Afghans will always be prepared to act to stop an attack.

Both Afghan and NATO officials have acknowledged that though some of the attacks have been due to insurgent infiltration, cultural differences and personal disputes have been the source of others. 

Sieff quotes Feda Wakil, the chief of staff for recruitment at the Afghan National Police, who said: “If a U.S. soldier says something against our tradition, it makes Afghan soldiers upset and could even cause an attack. We always tell NATO that the troops are not arriving with enough knowledge. They are learning from Afghans overseas who do not truly understand our culture.” In a USIP report released this summer, Nadia Gerspacher writes that these cultural differences can be addressed through better training of NATO officials in advisory roles. Gerspacher, who has helped train some Department of Defense advisers currently deployed in Afghanistan, identified three common traits for effective advisers in a recent interview

First, they advise; they don't dictate to their local counterparts. They offer ideas and knowledge; they don't insist on particular strategies. Second, they tailor their suggestions to suit cultural, institutional and political realities. They recognize — and respect — the traditions and practices of their hosts. Third, they don't shoot for the moon. Instead, they look for realistic targets and work for incremental reform.

As coalition forces increasingly move towards an advisory role ahead of 2014, training for these skills will become even more important — and potentially life-saving. General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, seems to recognize that expanding the NATO-Afghan partnership the right way could help end the insider attacks. AFP quotes Dempsey this week saying that perhaps “the actual key to this would not be to pull back and isolate ourselves but reach out and embrace them even more." 

Read Gerspacher’s full report on preparing advisers for capacity-building missions here

Steven Ruder is an editorial assistant at USIP.


Date: Friday, August 24, 2012 11:23 AM
From: Mort Olin

I think General Dempsey is obligated to take this tack because of his position. He is between a rock and a hard place!! 

Anyone with half a brain can see that our two cultures are so different and looking for change is like looking for"leaf fall" in a rain forest. 
Forget timelines!

Let's get out now! We shouldn't have been there to begin with!! (Ask the Russians)

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