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A Contagion of Killing in Afghanistan

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Posted on Aug 29, 2012
USACEpublicaffairs (CC BY 2.0)

By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch

(Page 2)

A 15-year-old “tea boy” at a U.S. base opened fire on Marine special forces trainers exercising at a gym, killing three of them and seriously wounding another; a 60- or 70-year-old farmer, who volunteered to become a member of a village security force, turned the first gun his American special forces trainers gave him at an “inauguration ceremony” back on them, killing two; a police officer who, his father claims, joined the force four years earlier, invited Marine Special Operations advisers to a meal and gunned down three of them, wounding a fourth, before fleeing, perhaps to the Taliban.

About other “allies” involved in similar incidents—recently, there were at least 9 “green-on-blue” attacks in an 11-day span in which 10 Americans died—we know almost nothing, except that they were Afghan policemen or soldiers their American trainers and mentors were trying to “stand up” to fight the Taliban.  Some were promptly shot to death.  At least one may have escaped.

These green-on-blue incidents, which the Pentagon recently relabeled “insider attacks,” have been escalating for months.  Now, they seem to have reached a critical mass and so are finally causing a public stir in official circles in Washington.  A “deeply concerned” President Obama commented to reporters on the phenomenon (“We’ve got to make sure that we’re on top of this…”) and said he was planning to “reach out” to Afghan President Karzai on the matter.  In the meantime, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta did so, pressing Karzai to take tougher steps in the vetting of recruits for the Afghan security forces.  (Karzai and his aides promptly blamed the attacks on the Iranian and Pakistani intelligence agencies.)

General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, flew to Afghanistan to consult with his counterparts on what to make of these incidents (and had his plane shelled on a runway at Bagram Air Field—“a lucky shot,” claimed a NATO spokesman—for his effort).  U.S. Afghan War commander General John Allen convened a meeting of more than 40 generals to discuss how to stop the attacks, even as he insisted “the campaign remains on track.”  There are now rumblings in Congress about hearings on the subject.

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Struggling With the Message

Worry about such devastating attacks and their implications for the American mission, slow to rise, is now widespread.  But much of this is reported in our media as if in a kind of code.  Take for example the way Laura King put the threat in a front-page Los Angeles Times piece (and she was hardly alone).  Reflecting Washington’s wisdom on the subject, she wrote that the attacks “could threaten a linchpin of the Western exit strategy: training Afghan security forces in preparation for handing over most fighting duties to them by 2014.”  It almost sounds as if, thanks to these incidents, our combat troops might not be able to make it out of there on schedule.

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