In Afghanistan, US troops must be protected from attacks from within
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Whether it is President Bush, President Obama, or the sitting U.S. president, Donald TrumpDonald TrumpHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Twitter's algorithm boosts right-leaning content, internal study finds Ohio Democrat calls Vance an 'ass----' over Baldwin tweet Matt Taibbi says Trump's rhetoric caused public perception of US intelligence services to shift MORE, the war in Afghanistan doesn’t seem to provide any respite for the White House residents.

As per the latest reports emanating from Afghanistan, the Green Zone has literally been sealed, and stern security measures have been adopted to protect foreign dignitaries from the warpath the Taliban, Daesh, Al-Qaeda and other terrorist outfits are currently marching towards. But, this isn’t what the Americans need to be worried about the most.

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There’s another, more significant, problem that can tarnish Operation Resolute Support in no time.  On Saturday, an insider attack was carried out at Kandhar airfield after NATO officials completed a successful training session with Afghan security officials. An Afghan policeman wounded a Romanian soldier, part of the foreign contingent. The incident, as terrible as it sounds, highlights and brings to the fore what’s actually missing in Afghanistan: Cultural and social misunderstandings coupled with personal grudges are cited as reasons for such "green-on-blue" attacks.

Now, how and why would you expect a foreign soldier in Afghanistan to seek cultural ties with local security officials? This is in addition to the direct threat posed by Taliban and Daesh offshoots to foreign soldiers, particularly Americans. To illustrate, consider that three U.S. soldiers were killed, and one wounded, in June 2017 during a joint military operation in Nangarhar, Afghanistan’s eastern province.

The recent attack over the weekend is the fourth one of its kind this year; 2016 and 2015 saw two insider attacks; there were four in 2014 and were 13 attacks in 2013. Even more mind boggling is the fact that there were 44 insider attacks in Afghanistan in 2012. That should’ve been more than enough to have set the panic alarms ringing.

Out of the above, there were 16 attacks perpetrated in Kandhar, seven in Kabul, and 19 in Helmand.

Since 2008, there’ve been 152 coalition deaths as a result of green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan and more than 200 foreign soldiers have been wounded. Here’s the thing: NATO and the U.S. troops often find themselves in a quandary. They often find themselves in a constant psychological flux. Taliban seems to take credit for every insider attack carried out on foreign troops but does that mean Afghan forces have been compromised? Either way, it’s bad news for foreign officials in Afghanistan.

Remember, there are many players involved in Afghanistan. Some are overt, while others are covert participants. Even if you increase the troop levels, there will always be the potential for a gifted cook (or cooks) who can spoil the broth any time, any way. Don’t buy into the notion that Afghanistan can be won by means of conventional forces. Although it is true a well coordinated, well managed and an all-out offensive is required, it has to also implement psychological warfare. Conventional warfare patterns alone won’t suffice.

When Resolute Support started its operations in 2015, there was the Taliban to deal with. However, Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K) chapter emerged shortly afterward. So, apparently, Daesh fighters and Taliban seem to be at loggerheads, but NATO and U.S. troops are often treated as a “common enemy.” They attack the troops directly, and they’ve got the capability to ambush foreign officials, as and when they please. One might ask why the U.S. administration even wants to be part of an ongoing crisis that may damage the country’s morale and military status so badly.

There’s another point that needs dealing with. These insider attacks tend to demoralize soldiers. As a result, they aren’t able to focus on the inevitable, i.e. the conventional attacks, if they are concerned they’ll be fired upon by the local Afghan fighting alongside them. The Trump administration might have finalized its decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, but it’s important to do something about this “insider attack” trend. Does the administration have anything in store to counter such a menace? Let’s hope so.

War in Afghanistan can give meaningful results when the U.S. and NATO troops don’t have to fight this two-pronged war. Insider attacks are on the rise. So, the question is: Is Resolution Support on the brink?

Shazar Shafqat is a counterterrorism and security analyst for the Middle East Eye, Middle East Monitor and others. His research focuses on South Asian security, Middle East politics and security issues, counterterrorism strategies, and military-related affairs. His commentary has been published by World Policy Journal, Asia Times and RealClearDefense, among others.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.