When Green on Blue Attacks Aren’t “Technically” Green on Blue Attacks

On April 30, AP’s Robert Burns revealed that the number of attacks on NATO soldiers by Afghan military and police had been systematically under-reported because only attacks resulting in fatalities were reported. An attack in Herat, Afghanistan over the weekend now raises the possibility that another category of Afghan attacks on personnel associated with the NATO coalition’s efforts is also under-reported. In Sunday’s attack, three contractors involved in training Afghan forces were killed, but the Reuters report on this attack mentions that since those killed were contractors and not military personnel, the attack was not “technically” a green on blue attack. Ironically, Burns’ exposure of the under-reporting on non-fatal attacks has resulted in at least some them now being reported, and there was one today.

Burns’ report opens with his discovery of the under-reporting:

The military is under-reporting the number of times that Afghan soldiers and police open fire on American and other foreign troops.

The U.S.-led coalition routinely reports each time an American or other foreign soldier is killed by an Afghan in uniform. But The Associated Press has learned it does not report insider attacks in which the Afghan wounds — or misses — his U.S. or allied target. It also doesn’t report the wounding of troops who were attacked alongside those who were killed.

CNN was the first to report the Herat attack yesterday. It is important to note that they first cite information from an Afghan police official before they cite NATO:

An Afghan policeman opened fire at a training center in western Afghanistan on Sunday, killing three Americans, a police official told CNN.

The Afghan official, who declined to be named, said the three victims were most probably trainers at the West Zone Police Training Center in Herat province. The shooter was also killed, the official said.

NATO spokesman Maj. Adam Wojack said the three killed were civilian contractors working for the International Security Assistance Force. He could not confirm their nationality or what their specific jobs were.

Today’s story from Reuters on the multiple NATO-related deaths in Afghanistan yesterday has the line about this event not “technically” being a green on blue event: Read more

New Green on Blue Attack Kills Three British Troops in Afghanistan

Three British soldiers were killed today in Helmand province in Afghanistan, extending the rising trend of green on blue killings where Afghan security forces turn their weapons on NATO personnel. Because NATO systematically under-reports green on blue attacks by only reporting on attacks in which NATO personnel are killed, not when they are injured or escape injury, we have only an incomplete picture of how rapidly the attacks are growing.

Reuters brings us the details of today’s killings:

An Afghan policeman shot dead three British soldiers at a checkpoint in southern Helmand province on Sunday, Afghan officials said, the latest in a chain of increasingly frequent rogue killings.

A fourth British soldier was also injured, provincial governor spokesman Daoud Ahmadi said of the attack, which could further erode trust between NATO and the Afghan forces they train before most foreign combat troops leave in 2014.

Note that this report cites Afghan authorities on the attack and includes the fact that a fourth British soldier was wounded. That contrasts with the AP report in the Washington Post, where we only learn about the deaths:

Three British soldiers were killed in southern Afghanistan on Sunday by a man dressed in the uniform of the country’s police force, Britain’s defense ministry said in a statement Monday.

The ministry said two soldiers from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards and one from the Royal Corps of Signals were killed in an incident at Checkpoint Kamparack Pul in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province.

The soldiers were part of a police advisory team which had visited the checkpoint to conduct a shura — a meeting of village elders. Defense officials said in a statement that a man wearing the uniform of the Afghan National Civil Order Police opened fire as the soldiers were leaving the checkpoint. They received first aid at the scene but died from their injuries.

It would appear that Britain’s defense ministry is adhering to the same policy as NATO, which the AP’s Robert Burns reported earlier discloses only green on blue deaths, not injuries or attacks which do not produce deaths or injuries: Read more

Alarming Rise in Military Suicides: More Than Double Rate in 1999

AP’s Robert Burns yesterday delivered sad news on a large rise in the rate of military suicides.  Just over a month ago, Burns discovered that the military has been systematically under-reporting “green on blue” attacks in Afghanistan by only providing reports on deaths and not reporting attacks in which soldiers are wounded or unharmed.

Burns notes that suicides have held at almost exactly one each day for a period of almost half the year and that this is a large increase over what had been lower, steady rates the past two years. Sadly, deaths by suicide far outnumber combat deaths this year:

Suicides are surging among America’s troops, averaging nearly one a day this year — the fastest pace in the nation’s decade of war.

The 154 suicides for active-duty troops in the first 155 days of the year far outdistance the U.S. forces killed in action in Afghanistan— about 50 percent more — according to Pentagon statistics obtained by The Associated Press.


Because suicides had leveled off in 2010 and 2011, this year’s upswing has caught some officials by surprise.


The 2012 active-duty suicide total of 154 through June 3 compares to 130 in the same period last year, an 18 percent increase. And it’s more than the 136.2 suicides that the Pentagon had projected for this period based on the trend from 2001-2011. This year’s January-May total is up 25 percent from two years ago, and it is 16 percent ahead of the pace for 2009, which ended with the highest yearly total thus far.

Burns notes that although numerous mental health and counseling programs have been put in place suicides continue at a very high rate. Contributing factors are discussed:

The reasons for the increase are not fully understood. Among explanations, studies have pointed to combat exposure, post-traumatic stress, misuse of prescription medications and personal financial problems. Army data suggest soldiers with multiple combat tours are at greater risk of committing suicide, although a substantial proportion of Army suicides are committed by soldiers who never deployed.

I thought it would be informative to find the rate of suicides before the ten years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. An AP article on military suicides from June, 2000 can be found here. It also was written by Robert Burns.

The suicides reported in that article for calendar year 1999 are broken down by branches of the armed services and in terms of deaths per 100,000 troops. The rates were 15.5 per 100,000 in the Army, 15 in the Marines, 11 in the Navy and 5.6 in the Air Force. Consulting this table of the number of active duty members of those branches, actual numbers come out to 65 suicides in the Army (although Burns noted there were 65 confirmed suicides and another 12 suspected suicides that are not included), 26 in the Marines, 41 in the Navy and 20 in the Air Force. That computes to a projected total of 152 suicides for calendar 1999. The total size of the force of active duty personnel for 1999 was 1,385,703.

Active duty forces now also total 1.4 million, so annual rates can be compared evenly. The rate for this year of 154 suicides in 155 days computes to a projected total of 363 suicides for this year. That suggests that after the decade of wars our armed forces have been asked to conduct, the suicide rate has more than doubled, going up by a factor of 2.4, from 152 per year to 363 while the force size has remained the same.


AP’s Burns: ISAF Systematically Under-Reporting Green on Blue Attacks

For several months, I’ve been hammering on the Obama administration and the US military for describing green on blue attacks in Afghanistan, where Afghan military or police personnel attack NATO forces, as “isolated incidents“. In choosing the framing of isolated incidents, these officials are ignoring a seminal report issued just under a year ago, “A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility” (pdf), which went into great detail in describing the cultural misunderstandings that lead Afghan forces to attack their coalition “partners”. Shortly after the report was released as unclassified, the US seemed to realize how damaging it is to the preferred narrative of isolated incidents explaining the attacks, and so it was decided that the report should be retroactively classified.

Yesterday, the AP’s Robert Burns made a major breakthrough in the story of green on blue attacks. Burns reported that the US military, in the form of ISAF, has maintained a policy of not reporting on soldiers who are wounded in green on blue attacks. As a result of reporting only fatalities, both the number of attacks and the number of coalition troops affected by them have been significantly under-reported:

The military is under-reporting the number of times that Afghan soldiers and police open fire on American and other foreign troops.

The U.S.-led coalition routinely reports each time an American or other foreign soldier is killed by an Afghan in uniform. But The Associated Press has learned it does not report insider attacks in which the Afghan wounds – or misses – his U.S. or allied target. It also doesn’t report the wounding of troops who were attacked alongside those who were killed.


Jamie Graybeal, an ISAF spokesman in Kabul, disclosed Monday in response to repeated AP requests that in addition to 10 fatal insider attacks so far this year, there have been two others that resulted in no deaths or injuries, plus one attack that resulted in wounded, for a total of 13 attacks. The three non-fatal attacks had not previously been reported.

Graybeal also disclosed that in most of the 10 fatal attacks a number of other ISAF troops were wounded. By policy, the fact that the attacks resulted in wounded as well as a fatality is not reported, he said.

If the subject were not so serious, Graybeal’s explanation for why ISAF does not report incidents in which soldiers are wounded would be laughable:

Asked to explain why non-fatal insider attacks are not reported, Graybeal said the coalition does not disclose them because it does not have consent from all coalition governments to do so.

Never mind that since the bulk of forces in Afghanistan are US, most of those wounded would be US soldiers, Graybeal would have us believe that he can’t report on US soldiers being wounded because he doesn’t have express permission to report when soldiers from other coalition countries are wounded in green on blue attacks.

Burns got Graybeal to repeat the “isolated incident” mantra:

Graybeal said each attack in 2012 and 2011 was “an isolated incident and has its own underlying circumstances and motives.”

Burns completes that paragraph with a reference to and a quote from the retroactively classified report, but he merely refers to it as unclassified, passing over the hypocritical actions the military took in trying to classify the report once it began to be noticed.

Congratulations to Robert Burns on his excellent work in forcing ISAF, through Graybeal, to disclose what had previously been hidden intentionally.