US Announces “Guardian Angel” Program to Protect Sleeping Troops Day Before Sleeping Afghans Killed

It was announced on Thursday that among a number changes General John Allen, Commander of US troops in Afghanistan, put into place is a program to provide additional security over US troops as they sleep. Remarkably, on the very next day, nine Afghan policemen were gunned down by an apparent Taliban infiltrator. Perhaps Afghan security personnel are even more in need of guardian angels.

Here is the description of the “Guardian Angel” program from The Telegraph:

US military commanders in Afghanistan have assigned “guardian angels” to watch over troops as they sleep, among a series of other increased security measures, in the wake of rogue Afghan soldiers targeting Nato forces.

The added protections are part of a directive issued in recent weeks by Gen John Allen, the top US commander in Afghanistan, to guard against insider threats, according to a senior military official.

The so-called guardian angels provide an extra layer of security, watching over the troops as they sleep, when they are exercising, and going about their day.

Among the new measures introduced, Americans are now allowed to carry weapons in several Afghan ministries. They have also been told to rearrange their office desks so they face the door.

As described, these security measures are an acknowledgment that green on blue killings of US and other NATO forces by Afghans are an increasing problem. Further complicating the prospects for Afghan security personnel to take over as NATO troops withdraw, however, is an incident today in which an Afghan police officer drugged and then killed nine of his colleagues before apparently collecting all their weapons and then speeding off in a truck to rejoin the Taliban. This is the third green on green attack this month and could turn out to be a huge deterrent to recruiting an Afghan security force of the size needed under the current plan for NATO withdrawal and handoff of security.

From the New York Times:

A member of an Afghan militia promoted by the American military to protect rural villages drugged his colleagues and killed at least nine of them as they slept on Friday, the third deadly incident involving the irregular guard force in March.

The killings added to concerns about the militia, known as the Afghan Local Police. Touted by American military commanders as a way to give Afghans a larger stake in battling the insurgency, the local police program has been assailed by rights advocates and many Afghans for bringing former Taliban and criminal elements into positions of armed authority.

Reuters documents the shooter rejoining the Taliban:

An Afghan policeman killed nine colleagues in an attack in eastern province Paktika, the governor’s office said on Friday, the latest in a string of rogue shootings that has also targeted foreign forces.

Two policemen have been detained after the attack on Thursday night in Yahya Khil district, while a third officer was missing. It was not clear if the assailant was among the pair detained, said Mukhlis Afghan, the provincial governor’s spokesman.

The Taliban said that soon after the attack, the assailant came over to the group, bringing a vehicle and weapons taken from the dead policemen. “He has joined our mujahideen,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a text message to reporters that arrived as news of the shooting emerged.

More details come from Dawn:

Bowal Khan, chief of Yayakhil district, identified the gunman as Asadullah, who goes by one name. He said the gunman was assigned to a small command post when he woke up at 3 am for guard duty. He then used his assault rifle to kill the nine men sleeping inside the post, took their weapons and piled them in a pickup truck.

According to Khan, Asadullah then sped away in the truck.

Khan said the victims included one of his brothers and the commander of the post, identified as Mohammad Ramazan. He said two of the dead were Ramazan’s sons.

The motive for the killing was not known, but police in the area blamed the Taliban for the attack. Paktika is a stronghold of the Haqqani network with ties to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Although they mostly attack US-led coalition forces, they have often carried out assaults and bombings against the Afghan army and police.

It’s hard to imagine how a large Afghan security force “trained” by NATO can be recruited and maintained if incidents such as this one occur with any frequency.

It is even harder to imagine how the Obama administration can continue to insist that there is no reason for a strategic review on Afghanistan until after the November election.

11 replies
  1. emptywheel says:

    Going back to the great reporting Yalda Hakim did, the Afghan forces there had this to say:

    With the recent events, the people hate us. Because they hate the Americans they also hate us.

    Easy to see why the Taliban are more successful at recruiting now than we are.

    When you read histories of why the Taliban were and are popular, their sense of justice (if you’re not a woman, obviously) is one of those things. We? We fly alleged killers out of the country to shield them from justice.

  2. harpie says:

    I know this is not exactly what you’re writing about, Jim, but it’s just something that’s been niggling at me about the Robert Bales story…might he have been drugged?

    From the NYT article:

    The assailant, identified as Assadullah, who like many Afghans goes by a single name, had on Thursday night laced food being served at the post with crushed sleeping pills […]

    Bales allegedly doesn’t remember some things about what he allegedly did; why was he lying in the field before he turned himself in?

  3. Jim White says:

    @harpie: Yes, I’ve speculated that drugs could be part of the memory loss as well. However, there’s also the issue of his previous traumatic brain injury and the accumulated toll of this being his fourth deployment, so unless a blood sample was taken on the night he was arrested, we’ll never know.

  4. orionATL says:


    i believe something did happen to make bales “flip out”. he was not in control of his emotions and, consequently, his actions.

    what that was i can’t say – prescription drugs, drug interaction, disagreement with colleagues, disagreement with family, alcohol. mental breakdown (is there such a thing as “temporary psychosis”) ?

    i has occurred to me, though it seems a silly thought, that if bales were fed up with the war, he might take this action as a rational (not flipped out) way to damage the american effort.

    if he were angry with his colleagues or superiors, he might have done what he did to destroy the effort of the american “pacifizers” he was working with. whatever his intentions, he certainly accomplished that.

    mostly, i think the flipped-out-in-a-major way explanation fits the situation best.

  5. MadDog says:

    As far as I can tell, General Allen’s “Guardian Angel” program is no more than mandating that US forces stand their own fookin’ guard duty.

    Amazing how simple commonsense ideas are the last to be implemented.

  6. rg says:

    Similar thinking here. I thought that the “angels” used to be called “sentries”, and later called “force protection” to pad the budget. Perhaps these “angels” are contracted?

  7. MadDog says:

    @rg: That would be consistent with the philosophy Repugs have engendered in all aspects of governance over the last several decades.

    Privatize everything and line their donors’ pockets.

  8. joanneleon says:

    I don’t know if this is relevant or not, as it involved a group of Afghans who are known as Hisb-i-Islami. They are sort of a hybrid group. The documentary is from Frontline and it has two names apparently. “Behind Taliban Lines” and “Behind Enemy Lines”. It was done in 2010. You will find it here at this link:

    Anyway, one of the things that struck me about this documentary was that during a mission to plant roadside bombs and blow up American vehicles, the spotter was telling the bombers about vehicles leaving a base so that they could set up and detonate the bombs and fire shoulder held missiles. They missed the first one or two targets because of timing. The next target was a truck carrying a US military tank and an Afghan police vehicle. This group did not seem to care which vehicle they hit. The US military and the Afghan police vehicle seemed to be equally good targets to them, almost like there was an equivalency.

  9. joanneleon says:

    Couple more things about the Frontline documentary — the journalist was embedded with this group and this was a precarious position and a rare thing. The people in the villages (this was northern Afghanistan) were housing, feeding and supporting the insurgents in their stays and travels.

    Several insurgents were interviewed and they all said that they would fight and hold their weapons until the Americans and the infidels left Afghanistan, but that when they left, they would lay down their guns.

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