September 19, 2012 |
Afghan troops have killed over 40 of their U.S. and NATO mentors this year alone. The assaults prompted the NATO military command, known as ISAF, to . From now on, a two-star general will decide if they can proceed, not captains or lieutenants on the ground.
The purpose behind the so-called “insider attacks” is “to erode trust” between the Americans and the Afghans, according to Australian Brig. Gen. Roger Noble, a top operations officer at ISAF headquarters. And while Noble insisted the trust endures, the new layer of bureaucracy separating Americans and Afghans suggests the trust is most certainly eroded.
“I trust the [Afghans] I speak to,” he told Pentagon reporters Wednesday, “but I always take a weapon.”
That would be bad enough for the Afghanistan war, since Obama administration’s entire strategy to wind down the war depends on preparing Afghan soldiers and police to take over. But it’s got implications for the other wars the U.S. is fighting — in Yemen, and in East Africa.
Those wars are known colloquially as “shadow wars,” for a few reasons. Not only are they undeclared wars, they depend on concealing the U.S. role in them. One method of concealment is to use stealthy forces like elite commandos or tools that require a small logistical footprint, like drones. Another method is to use proxy forces to wage them. In Yemen, for instance, the U.S. is training the local forces to fight al-Qaida in its stead, and they come bearing cash and weapons.
Now imagine yourself as a Yemeni insurgent. You’ve seen the government forces reclaim territory from you. So perhaps instead of fighting them, a smarter strategy is to join them — to go through training, in preparation for the moment when, perhaps, you can get close enough to the Americans to open fire or detonate a bomb.
To be fair, it’s not immediately clear how many of the insider attacks are part of an insurgent strategy — and how many are the result of friction between local forces. Marine Gen. John Allen, the ISAF commander, thinks only a quarter of attacks are pre-planned. And insider attacks outside of Afghanistan will probably be less dramatic. Not only are there more Americans to target in Afghanistan than in any other warzone, but those American troops live among the local forces, providing easier targets of opportunity. What’s more, the U.S. troops training shadow-war militaries are usually special operations forces, who probably prove more difficult to assault. Those special operations forces also have long, long experience training foreign allies, whether in Colombia, Nicaragua, the Philippines or Yemen. More>> 'Insider Attacks' Could Poison U.S. Ops Way Beyond Afghanistan