Commentary Magazine


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Don’t Ignore Afghan Soldiers’ Progress

The dispiriting trend of “green on blue” attacks in Afghanistan, in which Afghan soldiers or police attack coalition counterparts, continues with two attacks, one of which killed two American soldiers in western Afghanistan. These are the sixth and seventh attacks in the past 11 days, indicating that we are seeing another spate of such attacks similar to the one that occurred early in the spring. In all, as Long War Journal notes, such attacks have accounted for 13% of coalition deaths this year–39 out of 299 fatalities. This is higher than the total (35) claimed in green-on-blue attacks in all of last year.

Such attacks are especially grim because they call into question the loyalty of the Afghan security forces and may lead many on the home front to exclaim in disgust that we should pull out because our purported allies are not just ungrateful but positively anti-American. But keep this in perspective.

There have been approximately 31 such attacks this year (not all result in casualties, others cause multiple fatalities), mostly carried out by lone wolfs, roughly half of them Taliban infiltrators, the others simply disgruntled personnel. The entire Afghan National Security Forces are roughly 350,000 strong. So only 0.009% have attacked coalition counterparts this year. The rest of the ANSF, especially the army, is growing in strength and competence. They are, in fact, suffering higher casualties than coalition forces as they fight the Taliban. As General Jim Mattis, head of Central Command, told Congress: “No force is perfect. I would just remind everyone that even Jesus of Nazareth had one out of 12 go to mud on him.” He noted: “We should not allow a few criminals, malcontents, to define the Afghan security forces…. This is a force that’s come a long ways.”

That is an admonition worth heeding.