Yesterday, Dr. Jerry Umanos and two still unidentified US visitors whom he was greeting were killed outside the Cure International Hospital in Kabul, Dr. Umanos has spent most of each of the last nine years working at Cure International in Kabul while going back to the Chicago area for a few months each year to maintain his clinical practice there as well. The New York Times agonizes over the shooting this morning, noting that there is a “grim trend” in Afghanistan of ” a new wave of so-called green-on-blue shootings spurred by deepening Afghan resentment”. And yet, despite a recitation of the recent attacks on civilians both by the Taliban and Afghan security personnel, the Times ignores what could be a very large clue on just what might have provided the resentment for this particular gunman.
Here are the details of the shooting as recounted by the Times:
The shooting took place at Cure International Hospital, which specializes in the treatment of disabled children and women’s health issues. Afghan police officials said that one of the doctors there was hosting visitors from the United States who, after taking pictures together in front of the hospital, were headed inside when they were attacked.
Among the dead was a pediatrician from Chicago, Dr. Jerry Umanos, who had volunteered at the Cure hospital for almost nine years, treating children and helping train Afghan doctors. There were few details about the other victims on Thursday night.
Afghan officials identified the gunman, who was wounded, as a two-year veteran of the Kabul police force named Ainuddin, who had only recently been assigned to guard the hospital. Witnesses and officials said he fired on the Americans as they approached his security post at the building’s entrance, killing three and wounding a female doctor before entering the interior courtyard and seeking new targets.
The Times provides this description of Cure International:
Cure International, a Christian organization, was started in 1998 in Kenya and now operates hospitals and programs in 29 countries. The organization focuses on health issues for which treatment is difficult to obtain in the developing world, including club foot, cleft palate and untreated burns, according to its website.
A look at the Cure International website shows that the “Christian” part of the organization appears to be particularly strong. From a 2011 blog post by Cure founder Scott Harrison (original links within post retained):
CURE’s mission statement is:
CURE International, healing the sick and proclaiming the kingdom of God.
Those words come directly from Jesus’ own instructions to his disciples – first to the twelve and then to the seventy. The partnership of healing the sick and sharing the good news of “God with us” was linked in almost every facet of His life and work, and CURE strives to be a 21st century expression of Jesus’ 1st century healing ministry.
But what is the “kingdom of God”, how do we recognize it when we see it, and how can we partner with God to proclaim it? Fortunately, Jesus addressed many of these questions, and it’s the aim of this series of posts to humbly shed light on those answers through His own words.
Oh my. So just how enthusiastic is Cure International about its mission to proclaim the kingdom of God? Well, one clue comes from word about a new hospital that Cure will be opening later this year in the Philippines. Here is a snippet from their announcement of a search for medical director for the hospital:
CURE International has begun the search for the first Medical Director for the Tebow CURE Hospital in Davao City, Philippines. The hospital, built in partnership with the Tim Tebow Foundation, will open later this year. CURE is seeking an orthopedic surgeon with experience in a management role and a heart to heal the sick and proclaim the kingdom of God.
Although we have no information about how aggressive Cure International is in “proclaiming the kingdom of God”, their chosen partner for the hospital in the Philippines, Tim Tebow, has a clear history of such proclamations in a very out-front style that often made other players uneasy.
Today marks the launch in London of a book titled “An Intimate War: An Oral History of the Helmand Conflict, 1978-2012”. The book’s author is Dr. Mike Martin. Until Monday, he was known as Captain Mike Martin. In order to publish the book, however, he resigned from the military when it refused to grant him permission to publish the book, which the military ironically had initially commissioned from Martin.
From the Guardian:
A captain in the Territorial Army has resigned after a dispute with the Ministry of Defence over a book he has written that is critical of the conduct of the campaign in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
The MoD commissioned the book by Dr Mike Martin, but took exception to parts of the account. The dispute has gone on for more than a year.
In a statement, the MoD said it “has a strong record of learning from previous campaigns and encourages its officers to challenge existing norms and conventional wisdom. However, the publication of books and articles by serving military personnel is governed by well-established policy and regulations. When these are breached, the MoD will withhold approval.”
We get more from BBC:
Mr Martin studied Helmand for six years and completed an Army-funded PhD at King’s College in London.
He told the BBC Nato troops did not understand the “complexities” of Afghan tribal conflicts and were “manipulated” by tribal leaders fighting over land and water.
“This meant that we often made the conflict worse, rather than better,” he wrote in the study.
Mr Martin said he was originally told his final thesis could not be published as a book because it made use of secret cables published by Wikileaks and classified materials.
But for now it looks as though his resignation will make it possible for Martin to go ahead with the book launch:
But he denied the book contained any intelligence material that was not in the public domain.
Last week, he was then told by his commanding officer that he was “not authorised to published the book”.
He resigned on Monday and will launch the book in London on Wednesday night.
The MoD said the department had accepted the material in the book did not contravene the Official Secrets Act.
More information on the book and Martin’s research for it is found in the King’s College announcement for a seminar tomorrow:
An Intimate War tells the story of the last thirty-five years of conflict in Helmand Province, Afghanistan as seen through the eyes of the Helmandis. In theWest, this period is often defined through different lenses—the Soviet intervention, the civil war, the Taliban, and the post-2001 nation-building era. Yet, as experienced by local inhabitants, the Helmand conflict is a perennial one, involving the same individuals, families and groups, and driven by the same arguments over land, water and power.
This book—based on both military and research experience in Helmand and 150 interviews in Pushtu—offers a very different view of Helmand from those in the mainstream. It demonstrates how outsiders have most often misunderstood the ongoing struggle in Helmand and how, in doing so, they have exacerbated the conflict, perpetuated it and made it more violent—precisely the opposite of what was intended when their interventions were launched.
Dr. Mike Martin is a Pushtu speaker who spent almost two years in Helmand as a British army officer (covering Operation HERRICKs 9-16). During that time, he pioneered and developed the British military’s Human Terrain and Cultural Capability—a means to understanding the Helmandi population and influencing it. He also worked as an advisor to several British commanders of Task Force Helmand. His previous publications include A Brief History of Helmand, required reading for British commanders and intelligence staff deploying to the province. He holds a doctorate in War Studies from King’s College London.
Well, at least Martin didn’t have to leak his book to Rolling Stone to get it published. Informing the military of its own mistakes and hubris never seems to go well. As we are seeing now with Mike Martin in the UK and saw previously with Daniel Davis in the US, the military takes active steps to block such publications. And then sometimes it even goes so far as retroactively classifying material that is found to be embarrassing. I hope to get a chance to read Martin’s book. From the description, it sounds as though it may well take a similar cultural approach to the analysis of green on blue killing that lead to the retroactive classification of “A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility” (pdf).
Is there any higher heroism than disrupting one’s own career in the spreading of truth?
Citing a “former American official”, the New York Times today dubbed insider, or green on blue, attacks as “the signature violence of 2012” as it provided information directly from an Afghan soldier who turned his gun on US troops on May 11 of this year in Kunar province, killing one US soldier and wounding two as the US soldiers were visiting the Afghan post where Mahmood, the attacker, was stationed.
The Times points out that despite the Taliban’s claims that they have many infiltrators within Afghan forces, in the case of Mahmood, he took the initiative in approaching the Taliban once he decided that he wished to carry out an attack. It appears that local opinions where he was stationed played a role in shaping his decision:
But until May, he worked and fought alongside foreigners without incident. The change came in the Ghaziabad District of Kunar, where he ended up after the start of 2012, he said.
The area is thick with Taliban, along with Islamists from Pakistan. Many residents sympathized with the insurgents and often complained to Afghan soldiers about the abuses committed by Americans and the failure of Afghan soldiers to control much of anything beyond the perimeter of their own outpost, Mr. Mahmood said. The Taliban, they glorified.
Listening to villagers, Mr. Mahmood became convinced that the foreigners had killed too many Afghans and insulted the Prophet Muhammad too many times. He wanted to be driving them out, not helping them stay. The villagers’ stories “strengthened my desire to kill Americans with my own fingers,” he said.
The article provides hope that the military is finally gaining a real perspective on the issues highlighted in the seminal report “A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility” (pdf), which the military first retroactively classified and then embraced as it raced to respond to the growing crisis of insider attacks by preparing “training materials” implementing (in a very crude way) some of the recommendations from the report. But it now appears that the military is stumbling its way toward a deeper understanding of how cultural flashpoints are symptomatic the larger problem that the US simply is not welcome in Afghanistan:
But behind it all, many senior coalition and Afghan officials are now concluding that after nearly 12 years of war, the view of foreigners held by many Afghans has come to mirror that of the Taliban. Hope has turned into hatred, and some will find a reason to act on those feelings. Continue reading
It has been a horrific weekend for NATO forces in Afganistan. Friday, insurgents infiltrated the air base where Britain’s Prince Harry is stationed and destroyed a large number of aircraft and facilities. The infiltration was aided by the attackers wearing US uniforms. Saturday, two British troops were killed by a member of the Afghan Local Police and today four US soldiers were killed by a group of Afghan National Police. The six green on blue deaths bring the total for this year to 51.
Here is the latest information from ISAF on Friday’s attack:
Following the 14 September attack at Camp Bastion, in which two Coalition service members were killed when insurgents attacked the base’s airfield, the International Security Assistance Force provides the following additional details. Because it is still early in the investigation of this attack, this information is subject to change as new details become available:
The attack commenced just after 10 p.m. when approximately 15 insurgents executed a well-coordinated attack against the airfield on Camp Bastion. The insurgents, organized into three teams, penetrated at one point of the perimeter fence.
The insurgents appeared to be well equipped, trained and rehearsed.
Dressed in U.S. Army uniforms and armed with automatic rifles, rocket propelled grenade launchers and suicide vests, the insurgents attacked Coalition fixed and rotary wing aircraft parked on the flight line, aircraft hangars and other buildings.
Six Coalition AV-8B Harrier jets were destroyed and two were significantly damaged. Three Coalition refueling stations were also destroyed. Six soft-skin aircraft hangars were damaged to some degree.
Coalition forces engaged the insurgents, killing 14 and wounding one who was taken into custody. In addition to the two Coalition service members that were killed, nine Coalition personnel – eight military and one civilian contractor – were wounded in the attack. None of their injuries are considered life-threatening.
Danger Room provides some perspective on the issue of insurgents having access to US uniforms:
Nor is Friday’s attack the first perpetrated by insurgents disguised as U.S. troops. In 2010, following a spate of such attacks, the Pentagon ordered the Army to begin treating stocks of uniforms as “sensitive”and remove them from “pilferable” ground resupply convoys moving through Pakistan. “There is evidence that the enemy is using pilfered out-garment uniform items to gain a tactical advantage,” the Pentagon warned.
The unanswered question from Friday’s attack is did the insurgents hang on to uniforms obtained in 2010 or were the steps taken to secure the supply of uniforms breached recently? How many more uniforms do the insurgents have?
Danger Room also points out there there is a high-profile target at Camp Bastion and that there have been other recent attacks aimed at high-profile NATO targets: Continue reading
On Saturday, I noted that the move by US Special Operations forces to halt training of Afghan Local Police and Afghan special forces while those entire forces were re-screened for security threats meant that there would need to be an equivalent action taken on the larger effort to train the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police while they are re-screened:
So, while only Special Operations forces have suspended training for now, it is hard to see how this will not extend to all training of Afghan security forces soon, because the lapses in screening of recruits applies equally to the much larger ANA and ANP forces (approximately 350,000 for those two forces combined, compared to various estimates in the 20,000 range for the ALP and Afghan special forces when combined).
Even though it was a holiday weekend, it is remarkable that Pentagon Spokesman George Little was taken so off-guard in this line of questioning that Marcy pointed me to in Tuesday’s transcript:
Barbara, do you have a question?
Q: Thanks, two questions. On green-on-blue or insider attacks, what I didn’t hear you mention was that — what ISAF tells us is essentially all 350,000 Afghan security forces either have gone or are going through the process of being re-screened. And that comes from ISAF. So what would you — what does — what do you say to the families who have lost loved ones or their colleagues in the military after so many incidents this year alone? Who’s accountable for it taking so long for the U.S. military, for the coalition to realize they had to re-screen? Because for months, we were told isolated incidents, and apparently not.
MR. LITTLE: Well, let me put this in some perspective here, Barbara. It’s not that we have come only recently to this issue. We’ve taken it seriously for some time. In March of this year, six months ago, the — ISAF issued a tactical directive — and let me just list all that that tactical directive contained. It made it the adoption of specific and tailored force protection measures. Personnel and increased risks from insider attack were required to undertake specific close quarter combat and active shooter training. All commands are required to conduct refresher training, particularly for mentors and others who routinely work side-by-side with Afghans.
The directive required additional in-theater cultural awareness training. The directive also asked that coalition force units create safe zones inside ANSF compounds where they can defend themselves if necessary. And more recently, there’s been a great deal of focus by General Allen and his team on the importance of Guardian Angels, small unit leadership, and counterintelligence matters that will help identify potential attackers early on.
Q: But why did it take — and I have a follow-up to this, please — why did it take so long for the military in the department to come to the conclusion that 350,000 troops had to be re-screened? Why did (off mic)
MR. LITTLE: Three hundred and fifty thousand troops? Continue reading
In a news conference this morning, Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi announced that “hundreds” of soldiers have been dismissed from the Army or detained in a probe that began six months ago and is aimed at removing soldiers with ties to insurgents and therefore pose a risk for green on blue attacks. Separately, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen telephoned Afghan President Hamid Karzai to urge further action by Afghanistan to stem green on blue killings. Remarkably, Rasmussen acknowledged that NATO training on “cultural awareness” is important to stopping the increasing rate of these attacks. After first attempting to retroactively classify the report “A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility” it appears that perhaps NATO is finally ready to take actions aimed at implementing its recommendations to raise the awareness of NATO troops regarding actions and attitudes that conflict with deeply-held beliefs of Afghan recruits.
Reuters describes Azimi’s press conference:
The Afghan army has detained or sacked hundreds of soldiers for having links to insurgents, the Defence Ministry said on Wednesday, as it tries to stem an alarming number of so-called insider attacks eroding trust between Afghans and their allies.
“Hundreds were sacked or detained after showing links with insurgents. In some cases we had evidence against them, in others we were simply suspicious,” Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi told reporters in Kabul.
“Using an army uniform against foreign forces is a serious point of concern not only for the Defence Ministry but for the whole Afghan government,” Azimi said, adding that President Hamid Karzai had ordered Afghan forces to devise ways to stop insider attacks.
It is very interesting that Azimi claims this probe of the Army began six months ago:
He said his Ministry started an investigation into the attacks, which are also called green-on-blue attacks, within the 195,000-strong Afghan army six months ago.
Khaama adds a bit of detail on the basis for expelling or detaining soldiers:
Ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi did not provide any other details or specific numbers on Wednesday. He said many of the troops had been discharged from the military because they had suspect documents, either incomplete or forged.
Several aspects of this account stand out. Continue reading
The skyrocketing rate of green on blue attacks, where Afghan security forces turn their weapons on NATO troops, is forcing such desperate measures that NATO has given orders for all coalition troops to remain armed at all times, even when “inside the wire” on US bases, and General John Allen went so far yesterday as to suggest that Ramadan fasting may have contributed to the latest uptick in these attacks. We learn today from the New York Times that NATO has released figures for green on green attacks, where Afghan troops kill one another. The green on green killings exceed the green on blue figures. Recent history tells us, however, that even if NATO releases the final set of data to complete the full picture on inside the wire deaths (the depressingly high suicide rate, which exceeds the combat death rate, is known) and gives us data on blue on blue deaths (more commonly referred to in the US press as “friendly fire” deaths), those numbers are likely to be so low as to lead to speculation that the real rate is being hidden.
The Times story on green on green deaths begins in a straightforward way:
Even as attacks by Afghan security forces on NATO troops have become an increasing source of tension, new NATO data shows another sign of vulnerability for the training mission: even greater numbers of the Afghan police and military forces have killed each other this year.
So far, Afghan soldiers or police officers have killed 53 of their comrades and wounded at least 22 others in 35 separate attacks this year, according to NATO data provided to The New York Times by officials in Kabul. By comparison, at least 40 NATO service members were reported killed by Afghan security forces or others working with them.
NATO displays a remarkable bit of ironic cluelessness when they describe to the Times how they think these killings come about. After first mentioning Taliban coercion of new recruits in the Afghan forces, NATO then moves on to describe the same sorts of cultural clashes among Afghan recruits that have been described as underlying green on blue attacks in a report that the US chose to retroactively classify. NATO has steadfastly refused to acknowledge the cultural clashes that underlie green on blue attacks but is now rolling them out to describe green on green:
Further, there are concerns about cultural clashes within the rapidly expanding Afghan forces themselves, Afghan and NATO officials say, raising questions about their ability to weather the country’s deep factional differences after the NATO troop withdrawal in 2014.
“Three decades of war can play a pivotal role in the internal causes,” said Maj. Bashir Ishaqzia, commander of the Afghan National Police recruitment center in Nangarhar Province. He said one of the biggest challenges for the army and police forces was a lasting “culture of intolerance among Afghans, as well as old family, tribal, ethnic, factional, lingual and personal disputes.”
Robert Burns of AP has a new story out today on the issue of green on blue killings. It appears that the increasing frequency of these attacks has driven General John Allen, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, to grasping for even the lamest excuse for why these attacks have spiked of late:
The rising number of attacks on U.S. troops by Afghan police and soldiers may be due in part to the stress on Afghan forces from fasting during the just-concluded Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Thursday.
He cited Ramadan and the requirement for Muslims to not eat or drink during daylight hours as another factor.
“It’s a very tough time for these (Afghan) forces,” he said, particularly since they were fasting during the heat of the summer and the peak of the fighting season and have been facing combat strains for many 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” of attacks, he said. Already this month there have been at least 10 “insider” attacks by Afghans, killing 10 Americans. The latest was Sunday when an Afghan police officer opened fire inside a police station in the southern district of Spin Boldak, killing a 55-year-old U.S. Army soldier.
Allen seems to want us to ignore that Ramadan ended with the Eid al-Fitr feast on Saturday night and the attacker on Sunday would have been able to eat on a normal schedule. Maybe the stress of fasting lingers after daytime eating has returned. In his coverage of Allen’s press conference, Spencer Ackerman noted that Ramadan moves around on the Western calendar:
One possible contributing factor: the holy month of Ramazan, which most of the Muslim world calls Ramadan. Although Ramazan is an annual event, it doesn’t occur at the same time annually on the western calendar, and this year it fell during the summer fighting season. The “daily pressures” of war and the “sacrifices associated with fasting,” especially with a larger and newer force of Afghan recruits, may have contributed to some Afghan forces snapping.
Last year, Ramadan also was in August, so it’s hard to see how it had a huge effect this year and not last year.
But the ongoing push by the military to ignore the retroactively classified report explaining that extreme cultural insensitivity on the part of American soldiers plays a major role in Afghans turning their weapons on them continues to have a horrible fallout as more and more Afghans attack American and other NATO troops. With the looming deadline of withdrawal of NATO forces by the end of 2014 and NATO trainers knowing that this can only occur if Afghan forces are seen as capable of taking over security responsibility, it is easy to see how there might a bit more pressure exerted in the training process and how this pressure could cross cultural boundaries, prompting attacks.
Although Ackerman portrayed Allen in the press conference as “not…telling the public — or the Pentagon, or the Karzai government, or the Obama administration — what it might want to hear”, I see no evidence of Ackerman (or Burns, for that matter) following up on an interesting discrepancy in the description of the role of the Taliban in green on blue attacks.
Yesterday, I noted the dramatic increase recently in green on blue attacks in Afghanistan, where Afghan security personnel turn their weapons on NATO forces. This disturbing development clearly has rattled both the US military and the press, because their responses have been entirely bungled.
Late yesterday, we learned from CNN that all NATO troops will now be required to carry loaded weapons at all times, even while on their bases:
The uptick in attacks by Afghan security forces against coalition troops has hit home, with all troops at NATO headquarters and all bases across Afghanistan now ordered to carry loaded weapons around the clock, CNN learned Friday.
Gen. John Allen, the NATO commander in Afghanistan, ordered the move, according to a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the orders. The order, made in recent days, was divulged amid two more so-called green-on-blue or insider attacks Friday.
This move sets the stage for accidental friendly fire deaths (blue on blue in this case) set off by an unexpected noise. If I were an enlisted US soldier with brown skin and black hair, you can bet I’d wear my uniform 24/7 on the base and be ready to dive for the floor quickly when the bullets start flying.
NATO official posturing on the attacks is at least changing slightly. Despite increasing documentation of green on blue killings and outright defections by Afghan forces, NATO now grudgingly admits some infiltration is occurring, but their estimate seems to me to be a serious lowball:
NATO says the majority of attacks by Afghan security forces against coalition troops are driven primarily by personal grievances rather than an infiltration by insurgents.
“Some 10% we know are related to the insurgency,” Brig. Gen. Gunter Katz, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, said late Friday.
Perhaps the most stunning failure of all, though, in the surge of coverage of increased green on blue (I still can’t get completely to the new official-speak of “insider”) attacks, is this morning’s brainless Washington Post article looking “behind the scenes” at an attack from last week. The Post opens by laying out a number of facts surrounding the attack:
The teenage assailant who killed three Marines last week on a U.S. military base in southern Afghanistan had easy access to the weapons arsenal of the Afghan police. He was in near-constant contact with U.S. troops, often when they were without their guns and body armor.
But although Aynoddin, 15, lived among American and Afghan security forces, he was not a soldier or a police officer. He had never been vetted. According to U.S. and Afghan officials, his role on base was hardly formal: He was the unpaid, underage personal assistant of the district police chief.
Officials would later learn that the quiet, willowy boy was also working for the insurgency.
Nowhere in the article, however, does the Post point out that it is the US, and specifically the “advisors” whom the infiltrator targeted, who had been responsible for training the Afghan security forces the youth infiltrated. Continue reading