Data last updated on Oct. 26, 2013
Attacks on Coalition forces by Afghan forces — the so-called green-on-blue attacks — are emerging as a major threat in the 11-year-old war in Afghanistan. These attacks from within have increased dramatically within the past two years, and in 2012 they accounted for 15% of Coalition deaths.
As the United States prepares to complete the withdrawal of its combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the US military and its Coalition partners are increasingly shifting security responsibilities to Afghan forces. The success of this security transition depends greatly on the strength and competence of the Afghan military and police. Accordingly, the training of the newly-mustered Afghan forces has become a linchpin of Coalition strategy, which in turn hinges upon the work of trainers with Afghan security forces. This situation has placed Coalition troops at increasing risk as the drawdowns continue and Taliban efforts to infiltrate Afghan forces are being ramped up.
In 2012, attacks by Afghan forces on Coalition forces surged; in 2012, they accounted for 15% of Coalition deaths. In 2011, green-on-blue attacks accounted for 6%; in 2010, 2%; in 2009, 2%; and in 2008, less than 1%.
Although NATO commanders have stated that an estimated 90% of the attacks are due to cultural differences and personal enmity, the attacks began spiking in 2011, just after President Barack Obama announced the plan to pull the surge forces, end combat operations in 2014, and shift security to Afghan forces. The Taliban also have claimed to have stepped up efforts at infiltrating the Afghan National Security Forces.
Disagreeing with NATO’s analysis, the Afghan government has blamed the problem on “infiltration by foreign spy agencies,” including those of “neighboring countries,” The Guardian reported. The Afghan government also predicted that vetting of recruits to the Afghan military and police would soon improve as the forces were reaching their target capacity after a rapid buildup.
While cultural and personal differences may play a role in the increase in attacks, Taliban infiltration and defections by Afghan security personnel who have decided to ingratiate themselves with the Taliban by attacking NATO forces likely play a far more significant role in the green-on-blue attacks than NATO admits. Without a complete study of the attacks, including those that do not result in casualties, it is impossible to have a full understanding as to what motivates Afghan security personnel to turn on their foreign partners.
In May 2012, ISAF commander General John Allen said that about half of the green-on-blue attacks have been carried out by Taliban infiltrators. In August, General Allen said that approximately 25% of the green-on-blue attacks were due to Taliban infiltration and/or coercion of Afghan forces, according to The New York Times. The Taliban routinely take credit for the attacks.
The US military became so concerned with the green-on-blue attacks in 2012 that it ordered units to designate “guardian angels” in each unit whose job is to provide security for troops working with Afghans. In mid-August, field commanders were told they can increase the number of “guardian angels” depending on the tactical situation, Reuters reports.
The surge in green-on-blue attacks prompted the US military to expand its counterintelligence capability in Afghanistan at the battalion level and above, according to Reuters. In addition, ISAF commander John Allen recently directed all US and NATO troops to carry a loaded weapon at all times, Fox News reported. Other measures taken include the adoption of an eight-step vetting process for recruits and revised NATO training requirements.
Announcing these changes, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Afghan forces were also trying to address the problem and had already discharged “hundreds of soldiers” suspected of having been radicalized. The Telegraph reported that the Afghan army has added 300 intelligence specialists to help detect infiltrators, and that 75 percent of the force will be reinvestigated and enrolled in a biometrics database.
Although as a matter of policy ISAF does not report on attacks that do not result in deaths, this trend seems to be changing, as two of the three attacks reported in July 2012 involved situations in which soldiers were wounded but not killed.
Update: On Sept. 2, 2012, training for more than 1,000 new recruits for the Afghan Local Police was suspended by the US’s Special Operations Command after five of its soldiers were killed over the course of a week in August. On Sept. 17, the US military announced that it was suspending most joint US/Afghan patrols in the field until further notice, in the wake of a spasm of insider attacks, a major Taliban assault on Camp Bastion in Helmand province, and widespread Islamist protests over an anti-Islam film. And on Sept. 18, NATO followed suit, announcing that it too was suspending most joint operations below the battalion level.
The Taliban have seized on the green-on-blue attacks in their propaganda, and routinely claim each attack to be a result of infiltration. In early August 2012, the Taliban released a video of two Afghan soldiers who attacked ISAF soldiers in Kunar and Uruzgan [see Threat Matrix report, Observations on Taliban video ‘welcoming’ rogue ANA soldiers].
Mullah Omar, the leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, or the Taliban, addressed the issue of green-on-blue attacks in a statement released on Aug. 16, 2012. Omar claimed that the Taliban “cleverly infiltrated in the ranks of the enemy according to the plan given to them last year,” and urged government officials and security personnel to defect and join the Taliban as a matter of religious duty. He also noted that the Taliban have created the “Call and Guidance, Luring and Integration” department, “with branches … now operational all over the country,” to encourage defections. [See Threat Matrix report, Mullah Omar addresses green-on-blue attacks.]
Update: On Sept. 19, 2012, The Telegraph reported the Taliban’s claim that their “operations and strategy” have forced the Coalition to “abandon” its plans. “This is an achievement for the mujahideen who have managed to create mistrust among the enemy forces and, God willing, this is the start of their overall defeat in Afghanistan,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed.
Update: On Oct. 24, 2012, Taliban emir Mullah Omar released an Eid al-Adha message that urged followers to “[i]increase Increase your efforts to expand the area of infiltration in the ranks of the enemy and to bring about better order and array in the work.” The statement continued: “We call on the Afghans who still stand with the stooge regime to turn to full-fledged cooperation with their Mujahid people like courageous persons in order to protect national interests and to complete independence of the country. Jihadic activities inside the circle of the State militias are the most effective stratagem. Its dimension will see further expansion, organization and efficiency if God willing.”
In tabulating the green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan, The Long War Journal has taken its data wherever possible from ISAF press releases. Additional sources include foreign and US press reports, information obtained from ISAF personnel, and previous LWJ articles. Each listed incident in the timeline includes one or more hyperlinks to sources for the report.
For the purposes of this report, all attacks in Afghanistan in which a person purporting to be affiliated with the Afghan security forces — whether Afghan National Army, Afghan Local Police, Afghan Border Police, Afghan Uniformed Police, Afghan Air Force, other branches, or security personnel hired by Afghan authorities — are considered “green.” Similarly, all persons purporting to be affiliated with US, ISAF, or NATO security forces, including interpreters and civilian contractors, are considered “blue.”
The data below indicates the number of attacks, the affiliation of the attacker (if known), the location/province where the attack occurred, the date of the attack, the number of security forces killed or wounded in the attack, and the affiliation of those killed or wounded. The data also includes the reported fate of the attacker(s).
Because ISAF has generally not reported on green-on-blue incidents in which no casualties have occurred, the overall number of attacks is likely to be far greater than those reported below. Similarly, ISAF has generally not reported on incidents that have resulted only in injuries, not death; these too are likely to be underreported. ISAF has told The Long War Journal that the overall number of green-on-blue attacks is “classified.”
Finally, there may be a slight discrepancy between the LWJ and ISAF overall casualty counts, as ISAF does not treat attacks by Afghan forces on US/NATO civilian contractors as “green-on-blue” attacks. In addition, some incidents initially seen to have involved only injuries may have later resulted in deaths.
The following data will be updated on an ongoing basis to reflect any new attacks.
The Long War Journal‘s data covers green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan from Jan. 1, 2008 up to the present. As of Oct. 26, 2013, there have been a total of 85 attacks.
Total number of attacks per year:
2013 – 13
2012 – 44
2011 – 16
2010 – 5
2009 – 5
2008 – 2
Total number of attacks per province:
Badghis – 4
Baghlan – 1
Balkh – 2
Farah – 1
Faryab – 2
Ghor – 1
Helmand – 19
Herat – 2
Kabul – 5
Kandahar – 16
Kapisa – 3
Kunar – 1
Laghman – 3
Nangarhar – 3
Paktia – 4
Paktika – 5
Uruzgan – 4
Wardak – 5
Zabul – 2
Unknown – 1
Numbers of Coalition troops and affiliates killed and wounded by green-on-blue attacks:
The total number of Coalition deaths from green-on-blue attacks for the period Jan. 1, 2008 to the present is 140. The total number of Coalition wounded is 159.
Green-on-blue deaths per year, and percentage of Coalition deaths caused by such attacks:
2013 – 14 – 9.9%
2012 – 61 – 15%
2011 – 35 – 6%
2010 – 16 – 2%
2009 – 12 – 2%
2008 – 2 – less than 1%
Green-on-blue wounded per year:
2013 – 29
2012 – 81
2011 – 34
2010 – 1
2009 – 11
2008 – 3
Total number of green-on-blue deaths per province:
Badghis – 5
Baghlan – 3
Balkh – 4
Farah – 2
Faryab – 2
Helmand – 34
Herat – 3
Kabul – 12
Kandahar – 17
Kapisa – 8
Kunar – 1
Laghman – 8
Nangarhar – 8
Paktia – 6
Paktika – 7
Uruzgan – 6
Wardak – 8
Zabul – 5
Unknown – 2
Total number of green-on-blue wounded per province:
Badghis – 4
Baghlan – 6
Balkh – 2
Farah – 1
Faryab – 2
Ghor – 2
Helmand – 32
Herat – 1
Kabul – 2
Kandahar – 40
Kapisa – 18
Kunar – 2
Laghman – 6
Nangarhar – 2
Paktia – 6
Paktika – 4
Uruzgan – 5
Wardak – 17
Zabul – 5
Reported fate of the attacker(s):
Killed (includes death by suicide attack and killed after fleeing) – 42
Captured – 26*
Wounded (not known if also captured) – 6
Fled after attack- 36
Escaped following capture – 1
Unknown – 3
* Includes 11 suspects detained in an incident on Feb. 20, 2012.
Green-on-blue attacks in 2013:
A member of the Afghan National Security Forces wounded two NATO troops in a gunfight after an argument at a base on the outskirts of Kabul; the Afghan soldier was shot and killed during the clash. The incident occurred when a New Zealand trainer and his Australian guards were fired upon at a checkpoint as they left an Afghan base on their way back to a new British-Afghan military training facility in Qargha. The Coalition troops had tried to take a confiscated laptop from the attacker. The Taliban denied responsibility for the attack.
A member of the Afghan National Security Forces gunned down an a US soldier in Paktika province and wounded another before escaping.
A local security guard contracted by NATO killed a senior ISAF member in southern Afghanistan; the gunman was killed following the incident.
An Afghan National Security Forces soldier opened fire on ISAF troops in Gerda Serai district in Paktia, killing an American soldier and injuring several others. The attacker was then shot and killed by Afghan and American troops. The Taliban claimed the attack in a text message.
An Afghan National Army soldier opened fire on ISAF special forces at a military base near Gardez in Paktia province, killing three special forces troops and injuring one more. The attacker was shot and killed immediately after the attack.
A “rogue” Afghan National Army soldier opened fire on Slovakian troops at Kandahar Airfield, killing one and injuring at least two more. The attacker was captured by Afghan forces. On July 14, the attacker, Lamber Khan, escaped from an Afghan detention facility in Kandahar with the aid of his supervisor; the Taliban claim they have both joined the group.
Afghan National Army soldiers killed two US soldiers and a civilian adviser in Paktika province, and wounded three other Americans. One of the attackers was killed and another was captured.
An Afghan National Army soldier killed two ISAF troops in an attack in Western Afghanistan. The status of the Afghan soldier is unknown.
An Afghan National Army soldier opened fire on Lithuanian soldiers in an armored vehicle at an ANA checkpost in the village of Kasi on the outskirts of the capital city of Chaghcharan, wounding at least two Lithuanian soldiers. The attacker was captured and taken into Afghan custody.
Afghan Local Police opened fire on a US outpost after US troops attempted to arrest a Taliban commander visiting the ALP. No one was wounded in the shooting.
An Afghan Local Policeman opened fire on US Special Force personnel at a military base in the Jalrayz district in Wardak province, killing two soldiers and wounding eight more. The attacker and two Afghan policemen were killed during the engagement.
Three ANSF soldiers in an ANSF vehicle drove onto a US military base in Kapisa province, and opened fire on US troops and civilians, killing one civilian contractor and wounding four US troops. The three attackers were killed during the engagement.
An Afghan National Army soldier from Laghman province who had served as a prayer leader since joining the ANA a year ago opened fire on British and Afghan troops at Patrol Base Hazrat in the Nahr-e Saraj area of Helmand province, killing one British soldier and wounding six more. He was shot by Afghan security forces while attempting to flee. The Taliban quickly claimed the attack.
Green-on-blue attacks in 2012:
Dec. 31, 2012:
Two Afghan National Army soldiers opened fire on Spanish troops as they patrolled in the Karkh district in Herat province; no one was killed or injured in the incident. The attackers fled to the Taliban, who claimed that the attackers were from Jalabad in Nangarhar province.
An Afghan policewoman killed a US civilian adviser inside the Interior Ministry. The shooter has been captured and is in Afghan custody.
An Afghan soldier opened fire on British troops in the Nad Ali district in Helmand province. One British soldier was killed and one was wounded. The Afghan shooter was wounded in return fire.
Two Afghan soldiers opened fire on Spanish troops from the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Muqar district in Badghis province. The two Afghan soldiers were captured; one was wounded. One Spanish soldier was wounded in the attack.
An Afghan policeman shot and killed two British soldiers in Helmand province. The policeman escaped after gunning down the British troops.
An Afghan policeman shot and killed two US soldiers at a police headquarters in Khas Uruzgan in Uruzgan province. According to ToloNews, the attacker was “a trusted member” of the police force who had been on the force for “some months.” The attacker escaped. The Taliban claimed the attack the following day and said the attacker had joined them.
A uniformed employee of the National Security Directorate killed one US soldier and a US State Department employee in a suicide attack at an NDS office in Maruf district in Kandahar province. The attacker, an eight-year employee of the NDS, was a local Maruf man who had moved his wife and children to Pakistan the week before the attack. Also killed in the attack were the deputy NDS chief for Kandahar and three other Afghans. The number of wounded was not reported.
An Afghan soldier opened fire on Coalition forces in the Sayyidabad district in Wardak province. One US soldier and a civilian contractor were killed, and two US soldiers were wounded. Three other Afghan soldiers were also killed in the firefight, and several others were wounded. According to the Washington Post, the firefight began when an Afghan soldier shot the senior US soldier in a 20-man patrol that had gathered to collect biometric data from civilians at a checkpoint manned by Afghan soldiers. When the US troops returned fire, “[a]nother Afghan soldier at the checkpoint opened fire on the Americans, killing a US civilian contractor and wounding two other American soldiers [and] … [s]oon, Afghan soldiers and possibly insurgents began firing at the Americans from several directions.”
An Afghan soldier opened fire on a vehicle being driven inside Camp Garmser, a shared base in Helmand province; six NATO troops and a foreign civilian worker were wounded in the attack. The attacker thought the vehicle contained NATO troops. Another Afghan soldier took the attacker into custody after disarming him.
Afghan policemen opened fire on a group of Coalition soldiers in the Mizan district in Zabul province, killing four soldiers and wounding two more. The attacker was killed in return fire from another soldier; several other Afghan policemen were wounded. The Taliban later claimed that the attack had been carried out with the aid of seven Afghan policemen who were retaliating for the film “Innocence of Muslims.” A later report on the incident said five or possibly six Afghan police had opened fire on six US soldiers at an observation post, and that five of the attackers escaped.
A member of the Afghan Local Police opened fire on a group of British soldiers in the Gereshk district in Helmand province, killing two soldiers and wounding two more. The attacker was killed in return fire from another British soldier. The Taliban later claimed that the attacker was an Afghan soldier named Gul Agha, who “work[ed] in the occupier’s base in the area of Maljir in Naqilo.”
An Afghan soldier shot and killed three Australian soldiers in an attack at a base in Tarin Kot in Uruzgan province. Two more Australian soldiers were wounded in the attack. According to Australia’s ABC news agency, the attacker, a recent recruit named as Sergeant Hikmatullah, climbed over the base’s fence after the attack and ran away. The Taliban included a picture of Hikmatullah in a Twitter posting on Sept. 16, 2012. Hikmatullah fled to Pakistan, where sometime later he was arrested by the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate; he was handed over to Afghan authorities on Oct. 2, 2013.
An Afghan soldier killed two ISAF soldiers in an attack in Alignar in Laghman province. The attacker was killed by ISAF soldiers. According to Reuters, the soldiers from Combat Outpost Xio Haq were killed when their convoy was attacked by a gunner named Welayat Khan on an Afghan Army convoy that was passing by. The other Afghan soldiers reportedly lowered their weapons after the attack for fear of getting shot. Minutes after the attack, a US helicopter shot Khan as he attempted to flee. A local Taliban commander claimed after the incident that Khan was “their man” and that he had been trained by the Taliban for the attack.
A member of the Afghan Uniformed Police turned his weapon on a group of ISAF soldiers in southern Afghanistan, killing one soldier, and wounding another soldier and an interpreter. The incident occurred in the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province, and the district police chief has since been fired for negligence and lack of control over his personnel, according to AFP. The attacker was killed by return fire.
An Afghan Local Police officer killed two US soldiers during a training exercise on an Afghan base in Farah province, and wounded another ISAF soldier. The two slain soldiers were with Marine Corps special operations; one of the soldiers was a Marine and the other was a Navy corpsman, according to Marine Times. The attacker was killed by nearby troops.
An Afghan soldier shot and wounded two NATO soldiers in Zharay in Kandahar province; the attacker was killed.
A policeman wounded two US soldiers in an attack in Achin in Nangarhar province. The attacker fled.
Three US Marines were killed and one was wounded in an attack by an Afghan worker in Garmsir district in Helmand province. The attacker was captured.
Three US soldiers were killed and one was wounded in an attack by an Afghan Local Police commander and his men in Sangin district in Helmand province. The Afghan police commander fled after the attack.
US troops killed an Afghan soldier who was attempting to gun them down at a training center in Methar Lam district in Laghman province; two US soldiers were wounded by the attacker.
Two Afghan soldiers killed a US soldier and wounded three others in Shwak district in Paktia province before defecting to the Taliban. According to the Army Times, the attack took place at a military base in Paktia.
An Afghan Local Policeman wounded one ISAF soldier in an attack at a base in Panjwai district in Kandahar province.
Two ISAF soldiers were wounded in an attack in Ghormach district in Faryab province. The attacker was killed by ISAF troops.
A member of the Afghan National Police killed three civilian trainers who worked for ISAF in Herat province, and wounded another. The attacker was killed.
Five ISAF personnel were wounded in an attack by an Afghan soldier in Sayyidabad in Wardak province. The attacker, fled. The Taliban included a photo of the alleged attacker, Muhammad Wali, in a Twitter posting on Sept. 16.
Three British military advisers were killed, and another member of ISAF personnel was wounded, in an attack by an Afghan Civil Order policeman in Helmand province. According to the Los Angeles Times, the attack occurred in the Nahr-e-Saraj district and the assailant was shot and wounded following the attack.
An ISAF soldier was killed by “three individuals in Afghan Police uniforms” in the south. According to The Associated Press, the gunmen fired a rocket-propelled grenade at US soldiers in the Zhari district of Kandahar province, killing one and wounding nine more before fleeing. The next day, an Afghan policeman “facilitated” an insurgent attack on a base in the Shah Wali Kot district in Kandahar province; the attackers, who were clad in Afghan military uniforms, wounded “fewer than 10 US troops.”
Members of the Afghan Uniformed Police killed two British soldiers and wounded two more in an attack in Lashkar Gah in Helmand province. The British soldiers’ patrol had made an unannounced visit to an Afghan police base to investigate a tipoff that a policeman there was working with the Taliban. One of the attackers was killed and another escaped.
An Afghan soldier killed a US soldier and wounded two others in an attack in Kunar province. The attacker fled to the Taliban, and on Aug. 7 the Taliban released a video showing him being welcomed as a hero.
An Afghan soldier killed one US Marine and wounded another in Tarekh Naver in the Marjah district of Helmand province, according to The Associated Press. The attacker was killed by return fire.
An Afghan commando killed a US Special Forces soldier and an Afghan interpreter in an attack in Shah Wali Kot in Kandahar province. The attacker, as well as an Afghan special forces soldier, was killed by return fire. The Taliban claimed the attacker was “an insurgent infiltrator called Zakerullah,” according to Reuters.
An Afghan Uniformed Policeman wounded two ISAF soldiers in an attack in Zharay district in Kandahar province.
An Afghan soldier attacked ISAF soldiers in Dand district in Kandahar province; no casualties or injuries were reported.
An ISAF service member died following a shooting incident in eastern Afghanistan. The service member was approaching an ALP checkpoint in Rowzah district in Paktika province when he was shot by an alleged member of the Afghan Local Police, The New York Times reported. The attacker was killed by return fire.
An Afghan soldier killed two British troops, and wounded another ISAF service member, in an attack in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province. The attacker was killed by return fire.
An Afghan interpreter hijacked an SUV, wounding a British soldier, then attempted to run down a group of US Marines, including a major general, at the Camp Bastion airfield in Helmand province, just before Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s plane was scheduled to land. The attacker crashed his truck and then set himself on fire; the attacker’s brother and father, also interpreters, were both detained, as was another person said also to be an interpreter, according to The Associated Press.
An Afghan soldier attacked ISAF soldiers at Camp Morehead in Kabul; no casualties or injuries were reported.
An Afghan soldier and a teacher opened fire on NATO troops at COP Sangsar in Zhary district in Kandahar province, killing two ISAF soldiers, and wounding two more, before being killed in return fire.
An Afghan policeman gunned down two US military officers in the Interior Ministry in Kabul before escaping.