By Chris Carter
Afghan soldiers turned guns on their US and NATO trainers more in 2011 than perhaps any other year, and the military organization running the war in Afghanistan has responded by choosing not to report details of these incidents.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), a NATO-led security mission established by the UN Security Council in 2001 to secure Afghanistan, has opted to leave the announcements up to the respective nation whose soldiers are killed.
Sometimes, the incidents are simply not reported.
Last week, a rogue Afghan National Army soldier turned his weapon on his French trainers in Kapisa Province, killing four, and he wounded over a dozen others. The Afghans were preparing to go on a joint training patrol with the French advisors.
On January 20, ISAF issued the following press release on the incident:
Four International Security Assistance Force service members were killed today in eastern Afghanistan by a member of the Afghan National Army.
The suspected shooter has been apprehended.
It is ISAF policy to defer casualty identification procedures to the relevant national authorities.
On December 29, another Afghan soldier killed two French Foreign Legion soldiers in the same province. There is no record of the attack on ISAF's website.
The New York Times cited a classified report stating that between May 2007 and May 2011, Afghan soldiers or police killed 58 Western troops in 26 separate attacks. In April, 2011, 14 US service members and one US contractor were killed in just two fratricide incidents.
Six percent of all coalition hostile deaths in Afghanistan were due to Afghans killing their trainers, and the majority of the attacks occurred since October 2009.
Multiple service members have already been murdered by rogue Afghans in 2012, including one US Army soldier, Pfc. Dustin P. Napier, who was reportedly killed while playing volleyball in Zabul Province on January 8.
ISAF's press release reads: “An International Security Assistance Force service member was killed today in southern Afghanistan apparently by a member of the Afghan National Army.”
At least two other US soldiers were injured in the attack.
It takes some investigative journalism to learn whether US service members are killed by their Afghan counterparts. The New York Times determined the name of the fallen soldier from “Afghan officials” – the Pentagon disclosed Napier's cause of death simply as “injuries from small-arms fire.”
No link to the Times article can be found, but Stars and Stripes has a brief write-up mentioning the connection.
Whether or not Americans know if “friendly” or enemy bullets killed Pfc. Napier is not the point. What matters is that our mission in Afghanistan is nearly over, and our supposed “allies” are murdering our soldiers. And these attacks are increasing.
Rather than whitewashing fratricide events in Afghanistan, military leaders should be working to stop them.
The US and NATO plan to transfer security responsibility to the Afghan government in 2014, so the fate of the mission rests in the ability of military advisers to train Afghan army and police units. But when there is an increasing epidemic of fratricide, and NATO responds by not publicly disclosing the attacks, one has to wonder whether victory is even possible at this point.
A reader with an inside perspective responded to Carter's article. Please see the update:
Reader claims Afghans killing US soldiers "has been going on for years."