Attrition: Things To Avoid In Afghanistan


August 18, 2014:   On August 5 th , for the third time in 2014, a foreign soldier was killed in Afghanistan by an Afghan soldier. The Taliban blamed the soldier who did the shooting but did not try to take credit for the incident. These attacks are way down over the last few years. In part this is because of improved security, but the Afghans have also improved their screening of new recruits. Finally, there are simply fewer foreign troops to shoot at and nearly all of them will be gone by the end of 2014. There were about 50 of these killing in 2012 but only 15 in 2013.

As of 2013 NATO troop losses at the hands of Afghan soldiers were about 20 percent of all NATO and 16 percent of all American deaths. So far this year it is five percent of all NATO deaths. The U.S. military, which has suffered most of these deaths has taken the lead in getting the number of these killing reduced. Investigations of the incidents show that only 10-20 percent have anything to do with the Taliban. The rest are simply Afghans with guns doing what they have always done. The difference now is that there are armed foreigners around to get angry at and kill. But these attacks by allies attracts a lot of media attention, which is what the Taliban wants. The Taliban needs all the help it can get because overall they are not doing too well.

There have always been some attacks like this because that kind of violence is part of Afghan culture, usually to help carry out some criminal enterprise. The Afghans just accept that sort of thing but foreigners are usually appalled. This acceptance of violence has made banditry, warlords, terrorism, and groups like the Taliban tolerable enough to thrive in Afghanistan. The drug gangs, which will dispense as much cash or violence as necessary to survive, could not exist without the unique Afghan culture.

The August 5th incident happened at a military base near the capital where a three year veteran of the Afghan Army fired from inside a building at some NATO troops outside, killing an American general and wounding 14 other NATO officers and soldiers. The killer was shot dead by return fire. An investigation is trying to determine what caused the soldier to open fire.

Since 2001, some three percent of NATO deaths in Afghanistan have been caused by Afghan security forces or, much less frequently, Taliban wearing uniforms and pretending to be friendly troops or police. Actually, about a third of these killing are carried out by Afghan soldiers or police suffering from combat fatigue (stress, PTSD). They more frequently kill other Afghans but those deaths receive little exposure in the Western media.

These attacks stem from several sources, one of the more common being anger management issues so common among Afghan men. This is more of a problem as NATO troops shift more of their efforts towards training Afghan soldiers and police. This often means criticizing and trying to correct poor performance. This is often taken as a personal insult, which can have ugly consequences when the subject in question is carrying a loaded weapon. Somewhere between 10-20 percent of the attackers are pretenders. The uniforms are acquired by bribes or via purchase from tailors who have learned how to make convincing facsimiles.

All casualties among foreign troops are down over 60 percent this year (so far). This is largely because of fewer NATO troops in Afghanistan and more security operations undertaken by Afghan soldiers and police. There are also far fewer roadside bomb casualties and continued reluctance of the Taliban to fight foreign troops. The Taliban and Afghan security forces are both taking more casualties and the Islamic terrorists are getting the worst of it.





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