The number of American troops killed and wounded in so-called “green-on-blue” attacks in Afghanistan is rising, and Department of Defense officials appear to be doing everything possible to keep details about the attacks under wraps.
Five months ago, I learned Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force (i.e., U.S. and NATO forces) in Afghanistan, had testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee March 22 on the subject of the attacks on American and coalition forces by members of the Afghan National Security Force and others masquerading as such. During his testimony, he mentioned an unclassified Army handbook, “Inside the Wire Threat — Afghanistan.”
On April 10, I used the Freedom of Information Act to request a copy of the handbook from officials at the Centers for Army Lessons Learned at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., who published it.
Per federal law, I expected to wait 20 days for a determination by Army officials as to whether they would release the document to me. At worst, I figured the Army might cite “extenuating circumstances” that allow them to delay their response by an extra 10 days. But I was wrong.
Despite exchanging dozens of messages via phone and email with Army officials and despite altering my request by requesting it be expedited and/or redacted as necessary, my FOIA request languished without a determination.
On July 25, I received a message from Anastasia Kakel at the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Eustis, Va. She confirmed she had received my FOIA packet from officials at Fort Leavenworth. Further, the records administrator explained that she anticipated the process to take another two weeks.
On Aug. 7, I received more news about the status of my FOIA request from Kakel. In short, she explained that she expected to receive the legal review “in the next few days and then anticipate processing it to DOD FOIA Office for their review.” Most disturbing, however, was that she added the following statement to her message: “At this time, I can’t estimate how long it will take, as this is the first time we are processing a FOIA request this way.”
Apparently, my FOIA request is setting some sort of a precedent and has now languished for 125 days.
Following a week during which eight Americans, including Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffin, the Army’s most-senior enlisted soldier, were killed in green-on-blue attacks, I expect DoD officials will keep me in limbo, waiting for a copy of the handbook. They cannot, however, make me wait any longer for a copy of another report I obtained recently.
“A CRISIS OF TRUST AND CULTURAL INCOMPATIBILITY” is the title of an unclassified report by behavioral scientist Jeffrey Bordin, Ph.D.
Published May 12, 2011, the ISAF-commissioned report counted 39 ISAF members — including 32 Americans — as having been murdered during a 10-month period from mid-July 2010 to mid-May 2011.
This averages one murdered ISAF member every week over the last 10 months; one every 6 days over the last six months (30-40% of all small arms caused KIA), Bordin wrote in the last paragraph of page 4 of the report.
Of note, Bordin added later in the paragraph that continued to page 5, during the last six month period (November, 2010 through April, 2011) Westerners stationed within Afghanistan’s N2KL region (Nangarhar, Nuristan, Kunar and Laghman provinces) who regularly interact and/or train with ANSF’s have been over 150 times more likely to be murdered by an ANSF member than a U.S. police officer is to be murdered in the line of duty by any perpetrator (see Appendix B, pg. 59 for calculation); this excludes the additional risks associated with regular combat for these coalition personnel.
Most damning in Bordin’s report, however, is a lengthy paragraph on page 5 that follows some discussion about green-on-blue fratricide being a part of Afghan history. It begins this way:
…the common refrain from many ISAF political and military officials has been that such murder incidents between ANSF and ISAF are “isolated” and “extremely rare.” Such proclamations seem disingenuous, if not profoundly intellectually dishonest. Also, the common assumptions widely espoused after each murder event are that the ANSF perpetrator was an insurgent infiltrator, was psychologically unbalanced, or was a rare radical Islamist extremist among the ANSF. Ironically, while the international community is alarmed about the prospects of Islamic terror and its effect, ISAF has largely refused to acknowledge the ongoing threat stemming from our ANSF allies, nor devoted resources to conduct scholarly social atmospherics research on the actual reasons and motivations of the perpetrators. Such volitional cognitive dissonance perpetrates an ongoing blindness towards acknowledging this murder problem, determining the causes, and identifying counter-measures to deter such tragedies. However, as reflected in the murder chronology and statistics outlined above, such lethal altercations are clearly not rare or isolated; they reflect a rapidly growing systemic homicide threat (a magnitude of which may be unprecedented between ‘allies’ in modern military history). They have also provoked a crisis of confidence and trust among many ISAF soldiers and civilians ‘partnering’ with ANSF personnel, adversely effecting ANSF training and operations.
The most-obvious solution to preventing — or, at a minimum, greatly reducing — the number of green-on-blue attacks is improved vetting of the Afghans with whom U.S. and other coalition forces find themselves working side by side. After all, if you cannot trust your “ally,” who can you trust?
When asked via email April 4 about the process via which ANSF members are being vetted prior to working alongside U.S. and NATO forces, LTC Jimmie E. Cummings replied as follows:
“ISAF or U.S. are not responsible for vetting Afghans for either the Afghan National Army or Police. The Afghans use a 8-step process in vetting their candidates.”
An ISAF public affairs officer, Colonel Cummings went on to refer me and my questions about the ANSF vetting process to Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesperson for the Afghan Ministry of Interior. Unfortunately, Sediqqi acknowledged receipt of my questions via email but has yet to reply with answers despite repeated followup attempts. As a result, I was forced to rely upon a NATO Media Backgrounder, dated March 2011, for details of the ANSF vetting process. Highlighting ANSF’s eight-step vetting process, an excerpt from that paper appears below:
Recruitment is now following an 8-step vetting process. Upon signing the enlistment contract agreement, the recruit must get two individuals (village elder, Mullah, or other local government representative) to sign and vouch for the recruit. These individuals are held responsible if any discrepancy in the contract is found. The recruit’s paperwork and government ID is reviewed and basic biometric information (retinal scan, fingerprints, height, age, and weight) is collected, added to the recruit’s personnel file and accompanies the recruit to training. The biometric data is then checked to see if the individual has any known criminal or insurgent links. Approximately 6% of applicants are screened out for either drug use or medical conditions.
Following a “green-on-blue” attack July 3 that left five U.S. troops in Afghanistan wounded, another ISAF spokesperson, Lt. Cmdr. Brian Badura, was quick to put an official “spin” on the incident. At the same time, however, he appeared to reveal that ISAF officials had recently changed their approach and were getting more involved in efforts to stop these attacks.
Commander Badura, according to a July 4 article in Stars and Stripes, said the number of attacks against U.S. and NATO troops by members of the ANSF is low relative to the number of Afghan troops and police working with ISAF forces. Evidence of a change in the approach to combating the attacks appeared in the article’s fifth paragraph:
“First and foremost, ISAF is getting together with our Afghan National Security Partners on the vetting and process they use,” he said, adding, “What we’re trying to do is make sure that any of the mitigation does not damage the trust we’ve built between the (Afghan National Security Forces) and coalition units.”
Notice the active verb, is, was used twice in that paragraph.
Via email soon after the article was published, I asked Colonel Cummings to describe what is taking place during this “getting together” process and who is involved on the U.S. forces side of the table. In addition, I asked him when the “getting together” process began, if a timeline for completing the process had been established and if, to date, the process had resulted in any changes to the vetting process.
“We (ISAF) have today, just as we discussed back in April, advise the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in assisting them to develop improvements to the overall vetting and recruitment process for the ANSF,” Colonel Cummings replied. “The 8-step vetting process, which we have discussed in the past, is the result of our advising on this issue. Just like everything else that we (ISAF) advise on in Afghanistan, it is an ongoing and continuous process. We continually advise our Afghan partners on ways to improve processes. Again, the Afghans have the lead and are responsible for vetting their recruits into their security forces.”
I suspect DoD officials are hesitant to release the handbook, “Inside the Wire Threat — Afghanistan,” because the For-Official-Use-Only document exposes the fact that the vetting process falls far short of what’s necessary to ensure some sense of security among U.S. forces in country and it exposes the fact that ISAF officials have largely ignored Bordin’s year-old findings, possibly under orders from President Barack Obama.
In my upcoming second nonfiction book, THE CLAPPER MEMO, I’ll explore this subject in much more detail. Most importantly, I’ll connect the dots between a 2007 memo signed by then-Undersecretary of Defense James R. Clapper Jr. and the dozens of green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan during the five years that followed and since he was named our nation’s top intelligence official, the Director of National Intelligence.
Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice, a nonfiction book that’s available in paperback and ebook via most online booksellers, including Amazon.com. His second book, THE CLAPPER MEMO, is set for release this fall.