Saturday, 8 September 2012

Green on Blue - a Symptom of the Real Problem

The news that Prince Harry has redeployed to Afghanistan as an Apache helicopter commander as thrown a major spotlight on the risks in the upsurge of green-on-blue killings of NATO soldiers by their Afhgan colleagues.

This follows hard on the heels of the announcement from the US, as reported in papers like the Washington Post, of the suspension of training for Afghan recruits to enable better vetting procedures to be put into place. This follows a dramatic rise of such killings this year, with 45 NATO personnel killed by Afghan colleagues so far this year, as against 35 in the whole of 2011 - and a total of 101 since 2007.

Journalists are writing stories to try to explain this phenomenon like this one in Scotland's Herald, and this one in a Channel 4 blog, in which an anonymous Afghan officer says:
“I understand why our men are shooting US and NATO soldiers. I too have been personally hurt by the way American forces behave towards my soldiers, our villagers, our religion and culture. Too many of them are racist, arrogant, and simply don’t respect us.”
The wider problem is that the US and NATO have no place in Afghanistan in 2012. Had the war there been confined to the toppling of the Taliban and the establishment of a government with wider legitimacy across the country, followed by an early exit, then these problems would not have emerged.

The desire to build a nation, and the cackhanded way that goal has been pursued, has led to a long term occupation and the consequent killings of thousands of innocent Afghan civilians. When the utter contempt of western soldiers for Afghans is figured into the equation, then strong resistance including green on blue killings was inevitable given time.

NATO has no goal left in Afghanistan except to get out without being completely humiliated, and even that looks harder to achieve by the day. Soldiers are now being killed an a near daily basis for no good purpose whatsoever, and the starkest manifestation of that are the green on blue incidents. Better training and better vetting will have no effect. NATO estimates that just 25% of these killings are Taliban plots, as if that shows their security works. Insisting, for example as here in the words of Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow that most of these killings are personal affairs and that the Afghan-NATO alliance remains solid. Instead it just highlights how unpopular foreign forces are in country. It also highlights that gap between the  Karzai government and the Afghan people.

Want to stop the green on blue killings? It's time, beyond time, to leave.

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