Afghan soldier opens fire on US troops, wounds 7

An Afghan solider opened fire on US troops today at a military base in Balkh province and wounded seven American soldiers. Today’s insider attack, also known as green-on-blue attack, is the second of its kind in the last week, and the third reported so far this year.

Resolute Support, NATO’s command in Afghanistan, confirmed that seven US troops were wounded and “evacuated for treatment.” One Afghan soldier was killed and another was wounded.

It is unclear if the Afghan soldier acted on his own, or if he was turned or infiltrated by the Taliban to carry out the assault. The Taliban have not commented on the incident at this time.

This latest insider attack took place at the Afghan National Army’s 209th Shaheen Corps Headquarters in Mazar-i-Sharif in Balkh province. The 209th Shaheen Corps Headquarters was the scene of a deadly assault just two months ago, when 10 Taliban fighters fought their way into the base and slaughtered more than 140 Afghan soldiers before being gunned down. The Taliban said it infiltrated the Afghan National Army to carry out that attack. Afghanistan’s Minister of Defense and the Army chief of staff resigned, and four Army corps commanders were fired in the wake of the assault.

Taliban views insider attacks as a key tactic to defeat US

In the past, the Taliban has infiltrated Afghan security forces to carry out such strikes or convinced soldiers or policemen to turn their weapons on coalition personnel. In 2012, Mullah Omar, the founder and first emir of the Taliban, announced that he created the “Call and Guidance, Luring and Integration” department “with branches … now operational all over the country,” to encourage defections and strikes on coalition forces.

Since Omar’s announcement, the Taliban has said that insider operations are a key part of its military strategy when announcing the commencement of its annual spring offensive.

“These operations will involve conventional attacks, guerrilla warfare, complex martyrdom attacks, insider attacks, and use of IEDs to achieve their objectives,” the Taliban said in its statement on Operation Mansouri, the 2017 offensive.

Insider attacks on the rise

Today’s insider attack is the third recorded by FDD’s Long War Journal so far this year. Many go unreported as they may not cause casualties. It is is also the second of its kind in the past week.

The first incident this year, on March 19 at a base in Helmand province, resulted in three US troops being wounded. The culprit, an Afghan National Army officer from the 215th Maiwand Corps, was killed. The Taliban did not claim credit for the shooting, but did acknowledge it. Zabihullah Mujahid, an official Taliban spokesman described the Afghan solider as “an Afghan with a sense of patriotism.”

These incidents have decreased from 44 in 2012 to just two in 2016 and three more so far this year. This is due to a dramatic decrease in coalition forces after the end of the surge in 2012 as well as improved security measures. [For in-depth information, see Green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan: the data.]

The insider attacks have ramped up as the Trump administration sent an additional 4,000 soldiers to Afghanistan in an effort to halt the Taliban’s gains over the past several years. The bulk of these forces are expected to partner with Afghan soldiers in the field in an attempt to improve their combat effectiveness.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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