This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com. To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Engelhardt elaborates on the historically unprecedented nature of the green-on-blue violence discussed in today’s post, click here or download it to your iPod here.
Imagine for a moment that almost once a week for the last six months somebody somewhere in this country had burst, well-armed, into a movie theater showing a superhero film and fired into the audience. That would get your attention, wouldn’t it? James Holmes times twenty-one? It would dominate the news. We would certainly be consulting experts, trying to make sense of the pattern, groping for explanations. And what if the same thing had also happened almost once every two weeks in 2011? Imagine the shock, imagine the reaction here.
Well, the equivalent has happened in Afghanistan (minus, of course, the superhero movies). It even has a name: green-on-blue violence. In 2012—and twice last week—Afghan soldiers, policemen, or security guards, largely in units being trained or mentored by the United States or its NATO allies, have turned their guns on those mentors, the people who are funding, supporting, and teaching them, and pulled the trigger.
It’s already happened at least 21 times in this half-year, resulting in thirty American and European deaths, a 50 percent jump from 2011, when similar acts occurred at least twenty-one times with thirty-five coalition deaths. (The “at least” is there because, in May, the Associated Press reported that, while US and NATO spokespeople were releasing the news of deaths from such acts, green-on-blue incidents that resulted in no fatalities, even if there were wounded, were sometimes not reported at all.)
Take July. There have already been at least four such attacks. The first, on July 1, reportedly involved a member of the Afghan National Civil Order Police, a specially trained outfit, shooting down three British soldiers at a checkpoint in Helmand Province, deep in the Taliban heartland of the country. The shooter was captured. Two days later, a man in “an Afghan army uniform” turned his machine gun on American troops just outside a NATO base in Wardak Province, east of the Afghan capital Kabul, wounding five before fleeing. (In initial reports, the shooter in all such incidents is invariably described as a man “in an army/police uniform” as if he might be a Taliban infiltrator, and he almost invariably turns out to be an actual Afghan policeman or soldier.)
Then, on July 22, a security guard gunned down three police trainers—two former US Customs and Border Protection agents and a former United Kingdom Revenue and Customs Officer (while another retired Border Protection agent and an Afghan interpreter were wounded). This happened at a police training facility near Herat in Afghanistan’s generally peaceful northwest near the Iranian border. The next day, a soldier on a military base in Faryab Province in the north of the country turned his gun on a group of American soldiers also evidently working as police trainers, wounding two of them before being killed by return fire.