We've been at war in Afghanistan for nearly 11 years now, the longest war in American history. Almost 2,100 American soldiers have died there and the level of violence over the past 3 years has never been higher. Countless billions of dollars have been spent with little to show for it.
Yet the war isn't even part of the political discussion. The news media mentions it only in passing. You would think we were nearing peace or something.
Yesterday six American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan. That hardly merits headlines these days. However, the circumstances of their deaths deserves a closer examination.
An Afghan working on an installation shared by Afghan and foreign forces shot and killed three foreign soldiers on Friday, the NATO-led military coalition has said.NATO is planning a full withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. That means increasingly working with the locals to hand over responsibilities and projects.
On the same day, an Afghan police officer shot three US marines after inviting them to dinner.
Because of this closer contact, the nature of NATO casualties has also changed. These incidents are referred to as "green-on-blue attacks".
In 2012 -- and twice last week -- Afghan soldiers, policemen, or security guards, largely in units being trained or mentored by the U.S. or its NATO allies, have turned their guns on those mentors, the people who are funding, supporting, and teaching them, and pulled the trigger.These attacks are in no way coordinated. They are individuals, who in many cases, gave the attacks a great deal of thought beforehand. In almost all cases, the attacker dies in the process. They are essentially suicide attacks.
It’s already happened at least 21 times in this half-year, resulting in 30 American and European deaths, a 50% jump from 2011, when similar acts occurred at least 21 times with 35 coalition deaths. (The “at least” is there because, in May, the Associated Press reported that, while U.S. 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.)...
Note that these July attacks were geographically diverse: one in the Taliban south, one east of the capital in an area that has seen a rise in Taliban attacks, and two in areas that aren’t normally considered insurgent hotbeds.
In 2007-2008, there were only four green-on-blue attacks, resulting in four deaths.
Yet, near certain death in no way discourages the attacks.
The question is: what does this surge in attacks mean?
So it’s reasonable to assume that, for every Afghan who acts on such a violent impulse, there must be a far larger pool of fellow members of the security forces the coalition is building who have similar feelings, but don’t act on them (or simply vote with their feet, like the 24,590 soldiers who deserted in the first six months of 2011 alone)...It's looking increasingly likely that we will be leaving Afghanistan in worse shape than how we found it, and hating us more than when we first invaded.
If the significance of green-on-blue violence hasn’t quite sunk in yet here, consider this: such acts in such numbers are historically unprecedented. No example comes to mind of a colonial power, neocolonial power, or modern superpower fighting a war with “native” allies whose forces repeatedly find the weapons they have supplied turned on them. There is nothing in our historical record faintly comparable -- not in the eighteenth and nineteenth century Indian wars, the Philippine Insurrection at the turn of the last century, Korea in the early 1950s, Vietnam in the 1960s and early 1970s, or Iraq in this century....
What we’re seeing in the most violent form imaginable is a sweeping message from our Afghan allies, the very security forces Washington plans to continue bolstering up long after the 2014 drawdown date for U.S. “combat forces” passes. To the extent that bullets can be translated into words, that message, uncompromising and bloody-minded, would be something like: your mission’s failed, get out or die.
At this point, after 11 years of war, I don't see how this outcome can be changed.