The headlong pursuit of “hearts and minds” continues at the expense of life and limb.
Here, a NATO report acknowledged the risks posed by the inability to tell a “moderate” member of the Afghan army from a case of Sudden Jihad Syndrome waiting to happen, but its recommendations were never implemented for fear of damaging the “trust” of the recruits. “Commanders ignored warnings that British troops were at risk from attack by Afghan allies,” by Sean Rayment for the Telegraph, September 24:
The report, ordered after a rogue Afghan policeman shot dead five British servicemen, recommended that British troops should be armed with 9mm pistols at all times – even when sleeping – because of the high risk of being attacked.
It also called for British soldiers to have separate sleeping and living quarters from Afghan troops, and for all British “administrative areas” to be covered by armed sentries, such were the fears of further incidents.
But the rulings were never implemented amid fears they would lead to a breakdown in trust between members of the Afghan security forces and the British troops who train them and fight alongside them.
If the situation is really so volatile that the collective loss of “trust” is such an issue in what should be a professional, working relationship, that would appear to point to a bigger problem.
Only eight months after the deaths of the five servicemen, three more British troops were killed when a member of the Afghan army ran amok in a rocket and machine gun attack at a patrol base in central Helmand.
Subsequent attacks by rogue Afghan soldiers and police have led to the deaths of 15 further members of Nato’s International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF), including American and Spanish servicemen.
In November 2009, a group of British soldiers were relaxing after a patrol at a check point known as Blue 25 when an Afghan policeman known as Gulbuddin, who was working alongside them, opened fire at close range.
Three members of the Grenadier Guards and two Royal Military Policemen were killed, and a further six soldiers were injured. All were unarmed and none were wearing body armour.
Less than two weeks after the attack, a “Nato Secret” post-incident report was circulated to commanders recommending the extra arming of British troops.
In the second incident, in July 2010, three members of the 1st battalion of the Royal Gurkha Rifles were killed when a member of the Afghan Army ran amok at a base known as Patrol Base Three in the Nahr-e-Seraj area of central Helmand.
Talib Hussein, an Afghan soldier working alongside the Gurkhas, shot dead Major Josh James Bowman while he slept.
He then fired a rocket propelled grenade into the company operation’s room killing Lieutenant Neal Turkington, 26 and Corporal Arjun Purja Pun, a senior Nepalese Gurkha soldier.
The MoD maintains that even if the Gurkhas had been issued with pistols, their deaths would not have been prevented.
However, at an inquest earlier this year, Lieutenant Colonel Roly Walker, who was the Commanding Officer of the Grenadier Guards in November 2009, said that following the five deaths at Blue 25 he had ordered that all of his soldiers working alongside the Afghan security forces should be armed at all times as a deterrent against future attacks.
This newspaper has also learnt that some British commanders have independently ordered that soldiers due to take over the mentoring of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) troops should be trained in pistol “close quarter battle” techniques by members of the special forces in case they are attacked.
Troops are being tested in a variety of scenarios in which they have to respond to surprise attacks by members of the Afghan army and police within the confines of a secure compound.
Besides the victims from Nato countries, soldiers and police in the Afghan security forces have also been killed in attacks by rogue colleagues.
Although the Taliban have claimed that such assaults are part of a carefully orchestrated plan, there is no hard evidence to suggest high levels of inflitration by insurgents, and the attacks are thought largely to have been the work of individuals acting alone.
That should be no surprise. The Taliban did not invent the jihadist ideology and certainly does not have a monopoly on it.
Despite the deaths, commanders maintain that there has been no breakdown in trust between British and Afghan troops….