Gen. John Allen, the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, is under investigation for what a senior defense official said early Tuesday was “inappropriate communication’’ with Jill Kelley, the woman in Tampa who was seen as a rival for David H. Petraeus’s attentions by Paula Broadwell, the woman who had an extramarital affair with Mr. Petraeus.
In a statement released to reporters on his plane en route to Australia early Tuesday, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said that the F.B.I. had informed him on Sunday of its investigation of General Allen.
Mr. Panetta turned the matter over to the Pentagon’s inspector general to conduct its own investigation into what the defense official said were 20,000 to 30,000 pages of documents, many of them e-mails between General Allen and Ms. Kelley, who is married with children.
Really, at this point, what can you even say about the secret storm soap opera that roils within the rarified brass air of the US Military? This was just the last hit for a night that saw the emergence of the Shirtless FBI Guy (now under investigation himself by the Office of Professional Responsibility at DOJ) to a nightime search of Paula Broadwell’s home by the FBI.
There are too many tentacles, evolving too quickly, to go too deep on all the facts that have rolled out even in the last twelve hours. But the General Allen/Jill Kelley bit is fascinating. Remember, the handful of emails Paula Broadwell sent to Kelley reportedly did not mention Petraeus by name. This latest report at least raises the possibility Broadwell was referring to an inappropriate relationship between Kelley and Allen, and not Kelley and Petraeus. I am not saying such is Continue reading
Now that Ramadan is over, General John Allen and the rest of NATO will have to come up with additional explanations for why the rate of green on blue deaths is accelerating so rapidly. Besides the recent discussion of Taliban infiltration and Taliban coercion, another explanation that seems to be hinted at fairly often is that the attacks are going up because we are training more and more Afghan forces.
This explanation is offered outright by Peter Bergen in this CNN story:
Another likely cause of the increase in the number of green-on-blue incidents is straightforward: In the past two years the size of the Afghan army and police force has almost doubled from around 200,000 to around 350,000.
This explanation also was hinted at by Afghanistan’s Army Chief of Staff, General Mohammad Karimi:
Karimi said Afghanistan would also reinforce a vetting procedure that had never been properly employed, allowing cursory or no background checks for new recruits.
A number of the attacks this year were carried out by individuals who faced little scrutiny in getting access to joint U.S. and Afghan bases. This month, an unvetted 15-year-old “tea boy” who had been living on a police base in Helmand province killed three U.S. Marines while they exercised.
“We had a policy for recruiting from Day One, but it hasn’t been implemented. We needed too many people,” Karimi said. “When you need 12,000 people each month — it’s a number so high that we couldn’t implement the policy,”
In order to test this hypothesis, I collected the number of green on blue killings over the years from this database developed by Long War Journal. The data had to be updated yesterday to reflect another three deaths. For Afghan force size, I relied on this database from Brookings (pdf). In order to have annual rates for comparison, this year’s 45 deaths over eight months was adjusted to an annual rate of 67 projected over 12 months.
The number of deaths per year was then adjusted to reflect the annual number of green on blue deaths per 100,000 Afghan security force members. In table form:
Year Green on Blue Deaths per 100,000 Afghan forces
These results are even more striking in graphical form:
NATO force size also has changed over the years as well. I was unable to find a reference with a table of total NATO force size over the years, so I had to rely on this New York Times reference for US deployment levels through late 2009, this article for 2010 and 2011, and finally this reference for current levels. Taking the numbers above and then adjusting the death rates per 100,000 US troops deployed gives numbers of 0.4, 3.5, 7.9, 9.1 and 16.4 for 2008 through 2012, respectively, giving essentially the same trend as seen when not adjusted for US troop strength.
Note that although the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, and “training” of Afghan forces began as early as 2003, no green on blue deaths are reported before 2008.
NATO will have to find another explanation besides the rapid expansion of Afghan forces to account for why green on blue deaths have increased so dramatically.
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.