I’ve asked a lot of questions about the measures being employed to stem the growing number of attacks by members of the Afghan National Security Force against the U.S. and coalition personnel (a.k.a., “green-on-blue” attacks) who mentor and train them. Today, I’m inclined to believe some — if not all — of the answers I’ve received from official U.S. and coalition spokespersons in Afghanistan are simply not true.
My inclination stems from what I read in the first paragraph of TIME/World reporter John Wendle’s article published Tuesday morning:
Alam Gul, a potential Afghan Local Police (ALP) recruit sat cross-legged on a mat outside the unit’s crumbling, mud-brick headquarters in the village of Tabin, in Kandahar’s restive Arghandab district, alternately looking at his hands and at the sky as he answered a series of questions. Two ALP members sat watching nearby, while others washed motorbikes or lounged in the sun. The U.S. Army specialist and staff sergeant in charge of the interview were getting increasingly frustrated with the young man.
The words in the final sentence of that paragraph reveal what the reporter interpreted was happening before his eyes. At the same time, those words run counter to everything I’ve been told since April 4.
After being asked about the process via which ANSF members are being vetted prior to working alongside U.S. and coalition forces, Army Lt. Colonel Jimmie E. Cummings told me via email that “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.”
Responding to similar questions July 4, the International Security Assistance Force public affairs officer reassured me nothing had changed and that Afghans were still in charge.
“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 wrote. “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.”
On Aug. 23, Colonel Cummings’ replacement in Afghanistan confirmed again that Afghans were in charge of vetting Afghans.
“In response to your question on the vetting procedures adopted by the Afghans, the Afghan National Security Force is working hard to make their vetting processes more robust,” wrote Air Force Maj. Lori Hodge via email.
As examples of the measures being taken, Major Hodge listed the following:
Afghan National Policeman
• The ANSF introduced re-vetting procedures for Afghan National Army soldiers returning from leave;
•The ANSF outlawed the sale of uniforms; and
•The ANSF established an anonymous reporting system.
Further, as highlighted in this article published the same day, the major explained that Afghan President Hamid Karzai had issued a presidential decree which mandates that Afghan National Army recruits be interviewed by a four-person council consisting of officials from the Ministries of Defense and Interior as well as from the Afghan National Directorate of Security and medical department officials.
In closing, Major Hodge reiterated what I had been told by her predecessor, Colonel Cummings, and referred me to the Afghan MoD for further information on vetting procedures:
“While we advise our Afghan counterparts, the vetting of recruits and personnel is an Afghan-led and -owned process and they would be the appropriate authorities to discuss it in more detail.”
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Wendle misinterpreted what was taking place before his eyes. But I doubt it.
At the same time, I’m inclined to believe this long war in Southwest Asia is starting to bear similarities to our last war in Southeast Asia. More than many are willing to admit.
More details about my investigation into “green-on-blue” attacks and about my quest for related documents via the Freedom of Information Act will appear in my upcoming second nonfiction book, THE CLAPPER MEMO, set for release this fall.
If you need something to read until then, order a copy of my first nonfiction book, Three Days In August. It’s available in paperback and ebook via most online booksellers, including Amazon.com. Thanks in advance!
UPDATE 9/05/12 at 10:54 a.m. Central: Contrary to everything I had been told to date by ISAF spokespersons about who is responsible for vetting Afghans, I had it confirmed this morning — by Major Hodge via email — that U.S. Special Operations Forces are in charge of vetting Afghan Local Police (ALP) recruits. She confirmed that fact for me, but only after I presented her with details from John Wendle’s above-cited report. The major also apologized for having omitted this important detail from earlier correspondence with me. A major omission, I’d say.