Operations

Ramadan fasts playing role in Afghan ‘insider’ attacks, says general

Gen. John Allen, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said
Thursday that the Muslim holiday of Ramadan is contributing to the spike
of “insider” attacks by Afghan soldiers on NATO troops.

Allen said that while fasting during the holy month of Ramadan
was not the principle reason for an uptick in insider attacks, the
holiday’s occurrence in the height of the fighting season could be adding to
the stress of combat that has led Afghan soldiers to attack their U.S. and NATO
trainers.

“It’s a very tough time for these forces, and in particular,
this year, Ramadan, as it is known in most of the Muslim world, Ramadan fell in
the middle of the fighting season, during some of the harshest time for the
climate in much of the region in which we fight,” Allen said during a Pentagon
press briefing via satellite.

{mosads}“The daily pressures that are on some of these troops,
compounded by the sacrifice associated with fasting, the nature of our
operational tempo — remembering that Afghan troops have gone to the field and they
have stayed in the field, and they’ve been in combat now for years — we believe
that the combination of many of these particular factors may have come together
during the last several weeks to generate the larger numbers,” he said.

There has been a notable increase in recent weeks in
“green-on-blue” or insider attacks, where Afghan soldiers and police officers
have attacked NATO troops. At least 10 U.S. service members have been killed
in the attacks this month.

The attacks by supposedly friendly Afghan soldiers could complicate the U.S. transition strategy in Afghanistan as it hands off more responsibilities to Afghan security forces. NATO plans to transfer full control of security to the Afghans by 2014, a timeline that Allen said remains on track. 

The Taliban has claimed credit for the increased insider attacks,
but U.S. officials have said that the majority of the attacks are more about personal
grievances or radicalization.

Still, Allen said that about 25 percent of the insider
attacks were due to Taliban infiltration and impersonation, the highest
percentage Pentagon officials have attributed to the Taliban.

Allen said the 25 percent figure did not constitute an
increase in Taliban-related green-on-blue attacks, but rather was a different
way of counting the attacks.

“If it’s just pure Taliban infiltration, that is one number,”
Allen said, when asked about previous Pentagon calculations that Taliban
infiltrations made up 10 percent of the attacks. “If you add to that
impersonation, the potential that someone is pulling the trigger because the
Taliban have coerced the family members, that’s a different number.”

Allen said that during Ramadan, the International Security
Assistance Forces (ISAF) working with Afghan troops were careful to take the
added difficulties of fasting into account.

“We were very careful, actually, during Ramadan this year to
undertake operations during those times that would not place great physical
strain on the troops, as well as ours,” Allen said.

“Even with reduced op tempo during Ramazan, where we tried
to do it in the coolness of the morning or the coolness of the evening, did it
closer to the period of time when the troops may have had access to water or to
food, it was still during a very hot part of the season,” he said.

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