Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 20, 2012

Green On Blue Fratricide In Afghanistan

Just when the New York Times today published a background piece on fratricide between Afghan and international soldiers, an Afghan soldier killed four French soldiers and wounded another eighteen:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Friday that France is suspending its training programs for Afghan troops after the killings, which he announced in a speech after the U.S.-led coalition said an Afghan soldier shot and killed four NATO troops.

Sarkozy said it was "unacceptable" that Afghan troops would attack French soldiers.

Stopping all personal cooperation will be, of course, not a solution to the "unacceptable" problem.

The real number of such green on blue incidents is kept secret:

Military commanders in Afghanistan have stopped making public the number of allied troops killed by Afghan soldiers and police, a measure of the trustworthiness of a force that is to take over security from U.S.-led forces.
Since 2005, more than 50 troops had been killed and 48 wounded by Afghan troops, according to data released before the policy changed and USA Today research. In 2011, Afghan troops killed at least 13 ISAF troops.

The Times quotes from an unpublished report which says:

“Lethal altercations are clearly not rare or isolated; they reflect a rapidly growing systemic homicide threat (a magnitude of which may be unprecedented between ‘allies’ in modern military history).”

The superficial reasons why this happening:

“The sense of hatred is growing rapidly,” said an Afghan Army colonel. He described his troops as “thieves, liars and drug addicts,” but also said that the Americans were “rude, arrogant bullies who use foul language.”

The real reason will be deeper. While there is certainly also racism and jealousy involved, I would expect that the sheer value put on a soldier, the money that is spend on their quarters, their equipment and their pay is so vastly different that it creates deep animosities. With an Afghan soldier objectively valued less than a foreigner the foreign soldiers will perceive them as lower class and behave with arrogance towards them while the Afghan soldier will see the situation as degrading. This is thereby a class problem.

According to the Times report special operation soldiers have less green on blue incidents. The Times ascribes that to their culture and language training. That may partly be the reason but what is probably more important is that special operations soldiers tend to live a less pampered life than the regular ones and are willing and often will live with the native soldiers they are cooperating with under the same condition than those have.

Sarkozy's solution is to stop all cooperation. A real solution, besides of course leaving, might be to do away with the luxuries the foreign soldiers enjoy and make them live their time in Afghanistan just as the Afghans live.

Posted by b on January 20, 2012 at 06:17 AM | Permalink


An even better solution would be to not have foreign troops in Afghan in the first place. Oops, too obvious.
Keep the war machine going, keep Afghan opium growing, and keep the people from knowing... TPTB win.

“This empire, unlike any other in the history of the world, has been built primarily through economic manipulation, through cheating, through fraud, through seducing people into our way of life, through the economic hit men. I was very much a part of that.” John Perkins

"In our time political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible." Orwell.

Posted by: no6ody | Jan 20, 2012 7:28:19 AM | 1

Out of all of the Yankee fake wars the Vietnam redux known as Afghanistan is my favourite; by a country mile.
This is the war which has demonstrated to the world that technology, cowardice, greed and stupidity, are no substitute for guts and determination.

I doubt that I'll ever understand the logic of Yankees invading a country to kill people who don't want them there, arming the angry relatives, and then complaining about the blowback.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 20, 2012 8:39:43 AM | 2

The western militaries are aggressors in their country so of course the locals are pissed. Who wouldn't be, when these strangers are bombing and shooting, and conducting midnight house raids where they kidnap young males to be taken to a prison and tortured?

It happened in Iraq and it's happening in Afghanistan. The allies are recruiting a resistance, and even the Afghan National Army and Police have been infiltrated. This is why Petraeus started the Afghan Local Police, giving local gang members AK-47s and a license to use them for 'local security' - i.e. local repression.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 20, 2012 8:42:15 AM | 3

Well, if you had 70,000? clones of Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum running around your country ,killing and murdering at will,you'd shoot back also.

Posted by: dahoit | Jan 20, 2012 9:20:21 AM | 4

Found the report the NYT has been looking at: A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility (pdf)

Posted by: b | Jan 20, 2012 9:50:54 AM | 5

Indeed one of the hallmarks of the US Empire is just how incompetent they are at running it. The British Empire also consisted of genocidal racist thugs but at least they could successfully run the lands they conquered, with a foreign office class who took the time to understand history and the culture of the lands they ruled and a certain flair for Administrative skills. America just stumbles around from crisis to crisis like a three stooges movie seemingly committed to not learning a single thing from their mistakes. Have no doubt when the history books are written the American Empire will look like a fleeting joke of an Empire next to all the others.

On a related note since the piece mentions Sarkozy: Can I ask what the hell is French candidate Francois Hollande doing exactly? The French Elections are under 3 months away and he is barely in the news. Is he even bothering to campaign?

A few months ago Sarkozy had an approval rating of 28% the same approval George W Bush had in 2007-2008. In short, Sarkozy is the most despised political leader ever to run for a second term in France. And yet Francois Hollande, his opponent, is nowhere to be seen. I remember in 2007 all the articles and news coverage of Segolene Royale, she campaigned hard and barely lost. Now however it looks like the Socialists are deliberately throwing the election. No visible campaigning, little press reports, rumours of internal fighting, not to mention the whole DSK storm. Now polls are showing that Hollande is in the lead with only 4% from a 16% lead in November. France's economy is tanking, its Triple A rating is gone and reports say Hollande's campaign has yet to even publish his economic policy platform.

With the first round of voting in March you would think he would be starting to get up off his ass and do some actual campaigning wouldn't you?

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Jan 20, 2012 10:10:02 AM | 6

For Sarkozy, his only option, like so many non-autonomous leaders now days, is to do what he's told to do, by the Banksters & Corporatists who run a good portion of the world's policies.

Posted by: ben | Jan 20, 2012 10:32:48 AM | 7

I once used to awed by all the war statistics reports but everytime I see the 'official' reports versus the ground reality, it makes me rethink my axioms.

Like 'The afghan army will take control'. Of what? how? with what knowledge,skill and authority?

Dollars to doughnuts, the moment the natives learn enough about basic artillery or commando stuff, they'll take their chances for a flame out against NATO.

If it's so common, I wonder why the Taliban is not teaching them to booby trap stuff within the base itself instead of outright green on blue killing; would make more sense and widen the chasm further. I believe in Vietnam, the fragging ranged from direct throws into the officer tents to pressure released grenades going off when some object was lifted.

Oh, BTW, I think the Taliban is doing the oil spot strategy really well these days. Every man in A'stan that NATO talks to and is seen as competent, they've taken him out. Every assassination, when you read it, it's a governor, negotiator, village headman, mullah who's been talking to NATO.

Fuck, those guys are good. Very good.

Posted by: shanks | Jan 20, 2012 10:57:28 AM | 8

Hollande is campaigning hard, the way that Social Democrats do, the way that Miliband is in the UK, by promising that, if elected, he will just carry on doing the same thing: more cuts to pensions and social services, more imperialist adventure, more assaults on civil rights and liberties and underwriting all public debts to protect the interests of the rentier from, that bullying predator, the worker.
Socialists, they aint.

Posted by: bevin | Jan 20, 2012 12:20:25 PM | 9

NYRB, Anatol Lieven: Afghanistan: The Best Way to Peace

Good ideas.

Posted by: b | Jan 20, 2012 12:25:11 PM | 10

Anyone who was alive during the Vietnam war era will remember the South Vietnamese regular army troops, the ARVN, discussed in almost identical words. Sometimes I wonder whether US decision makers even care who wins or loses. War just seems to be an activity they want to engage in. Since the end of the Second World War, America has lost or at best pulled out a draw in every major regional war it has gotten itself into. Surely the pattern must be obvious to everyone involved -- yet they keep attacking countries.

Posted by: Ralph Dratman | Jan 20, 2012 12:51:26 PM | 11

This all fits with Michael Moore's contention that we fight for the sake of profits made by the armaments industry and other war-related businesses. Our "government" is effectively an arm of USA, Inc. Attacking countries for profit is, of course, evil -- but that is how our country makes its living. We live on the spoils and profits of war.

Posted by: Ralph Dratman | Jan 20, 2012 1:12:13 PM | 12

Hi b,

Isn't it interesting how the copy of the report you found, which I presume is the one at Michael Yon's website where I also found it, is stamped "UNCLASSIFIED" on the top and bottom of each of the 70 pages in bright green, even though the Times claims that it is classified?

My speculations on why that is the case can be found in my post from today:

Posted by: Jim White | Jan 20, 2012 1:48:40 PM | 13

France has now said it might be pulling all (3.400) troops out if he doesn't get assurances on vetting.

"President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered the suspension of all training activities by French forces in Afghanistan after the second attack of its kind in a month. French ministers said that their 3,600 troops would be withdrawn unless Kabul provided “credible assurances” that the vetting of Afghan recruits would be improved."

Meanwhile looks like 15 soldiers were also wounded:

"An Afghan army trainee opened fire with an automatic weapon on French soldiers during a sports exercise today at a base high in the mountains at Gwan in eastern Afghanistan. Four soldiers were killed and 15 wounded, including eight seriously."


And that is as well as the 6 US Marines killed in another helicopter downing in Helmand.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Jan 20, 2012 1:52:26 PM | 14

"do away with the luxuries the foreign soldiers enjoy"

Exactly. This is supposed to be a war, not a video game. And it's not just the war zones that are stealing from the American taxpayer. I happened to see an episode of "House Hunters International" where a military employee was given a $58,000 yearly housing allowance to live in Japan. That shouldn't ever be happening, especially when we're being to tighten our belts at home.

Posted by: FollowTheMoney | Jan 20, 2012 3:12:17 PM | 15

Obviously a half hazard and absurd article by someone who simply has no idea what they are talkign about. I seriously doubt green on blue is because regular soldiers are living so high on the hog and Afghan soldiers are jealous. Yeah THATs the answer.

Posted by: Been There Twice | Jan 20, 2012 10:20:17 PM | 16

Sarkozy said it was "unacceptable" that Afghan troops would attack French soldiers.'

But its ok for french troops to attack afghans or libyans or whoever...

Posted by: brian | Jan 23, 2012 5:16:49 PM | 17

Whether Sarkozy accepts it or not probably doesn't mean much to an Afghan whose brother has been tortured, his daughter raped and his father shot by infidels.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 23, 2012 6:05:32 PM | 18

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