Friday, March 2

What's the biggest reason for the spike in fratricidal Afghan attacks on ISAF troops?

Take special note of the dates of the following two reports. (The Wall Street Journal one was probably filed just hours before the Koran burning incident, and in any event before the rioting that broke out in response to the incident.)

February 21, 2012:
Afghanistan to Spy on Its Soldiers
by Dion Nissenbaum
The Wall Street Journal

Effort Seeks to Curtail Attacks by Local Uniformed Troops on Coalition Forces, Say Afghan and U.S. Military Leaders

WSJ's Dion Nissenbaum has exclusive details of a plan by Afghanistan to spy on its own soldiers in the aftermath of more than 70 coalition troops killed by Afghan soldiers since 2007.

KABUL - Afghanistan is rolling out an ambitious plan to spy on its own soldiers, the most serious attempt so far to halt a string of attacks by Afghan troops on their Western comrades-in-arms, according to Afghan and American military leaders.

As part of the effort, agents of the National Directorate of Security, the country's spy agency, will be deployed to army units across the country to monitor Afghan soldiers at every step, from recruitment and training to deployment and home leave, these people said.

The intent is to identify and weed out any potential troublemakers before problems turn deadly, Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak said in an interview. "Every soldier has to become an informer," he said.

So-called green-on-blue attacks by Afghan servicemen on coalition personnel claimed at least 77 lives in the past five years, with three-quarters occurring since early 2010. Last year, an analyst for the U.S. military warned that the attacks were turning into a "growing systemic threat" to the mission, in a study that has since become classified.
May 24, 2011:
Afghan Secret Police to Weed Out Insurgents From Military
Institute for War and Peace Reporting via UNHCR

Worried about Afghan soldiers and police who turn their guns on their own side, Kabul has assigned the intelligence service to keep a close eye on the armed forces.

The government ascribes a spate of attacks on NATO troops and Afghan officials to the Taleban infiltrating the Afghan National Army, ANA, and Afghan National Police, ANP, or masquerading as members by obtaining uniforms. Analysts say this has been going on for some years, but a spate of high profile deadly attacks has prodded the government into action.

Lotfullah Mashal, spokesman for the National Directorate of Security, NDS, said the agency would for the first time place units within recruitment centres and other facilities of both the defence and interior ministries, which control the ANA and ANP, respectively.

“Recent incidents have forced the NDS to work in close coordination with the defence ministry and the interior ministry,” he said, without detailing how this scrutiny would work.
So, almost a year before Nissenbaum's report with "exclusive" details on a new plan to seed the ANSF with NDS spies, the plan had been announced.

So why was the plan re-announced as new, little more than a week ago? From the wording of the rest of the 2011 report, there were 'turf' battles going on between agencies and also within agencies. And the army and police forces were waiting on equipment, including computers, before the plan could become fully operational.

And although the report doesn't mention this, once all the equipment was in place, the soldiers and police would have to be trained in the proper use of equipment for processing biometric data, proper methods for questioning new recruits and profiling them, and so on. But from the following two reports it seems the agencies are finally getting all their ducks in a row:

February 23, 2012:
Attacks on US embassy, palace thwarted, Afghan spy agency says
Deutsche Presse Agentur

Kabul - Afghanistan's intelligence agency on Thursday said it has thwarted planned attacks on the presidential palace and US facilities in Kabul.

Officers with the National Directorate of Security (NDS) arrested three people in Kabul who had been trained in Pakistan's tribal areas, spokesman Lutfullah Mashal told reporters in Kabul.

"They intended to carry out suicide bombing and terrorist attacks against the US embassy in Kabul, the presidential palace and Ariana Hotel but the NDS arrested them" before they could carry out their attacks, Mashal said.

The Ariana Hotel is believed to be occupied by the US Central Intelligence Agency. US officials have told DPA that it has been converted into one of their facilities, without providing details.

The building is next to the president's office and the US embassy.
Regarding the second report, note that while it was filed just a few days ago, the arrests it refers to occurred in January of this year.

February 28, 2012:
Four Afghan Officials Arrested On Spying Charges
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

KABUL - Information has emerged about the arrests of four Afghan officials for allegedly spying on behalf of neighboring Iran and Pakistan.

A spokesman for Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security, Lutfullah Mashal, said the arrests had been made on the basis of "concrete evidence."

He declined to provide further details.

Sources at the Afghan spy agency told reporters on condition of anonymity that a high-ranking diplomat at the Foreign Ministry's Asia section has been accused of providing information to Pakistan's military intelligence agency.

The three other suspects are described as government employees in the eastern Nangarhar, western Farah, and Herat provinces.

The Afghan Foreign Ministry has not yet commented about the arrests, which were reportedly made one month ago.
The NDS was hit with a double whammy in June 2010 when Amrullah Saleh, under pressure from President Hamid Karzai, resigned as head of the agency; that's because the cream of the agency walked out in solidarity with him. I can't recall offhand how many left -- maybe 12 or 18, something in that range -- but it wasn't only a couple people and they didn't resign over a period of weeks or months; they all left at once.

Imagine something like that happening at the CIA -- the best at the agency standing up and saying in one voice, "Bye." No one is indispensable but it takes time, particularly for a spy agency, to recover from such a blow.

But I digress. The point is that the large increase in attacks on NATO soldiers by ANSF personnel began in 2010.

In addition to the walkout at the NDS there were three other pivotal events in June 2010 that feed into the present crisis in Afghanisan, and which together signaled a new phase in the war. I'll pick up on that discussion on Monday.

I'll close with some observations for readers who've interpreted every fratricidal killing of six U.S. soldiers in little more than a week as a direct consequence of the Koran burning incident, and who believe that ISAF is now hamstrung because of fallout from the incident.

There's not enough publicly available information at this early stage to nail down every motive in the killings. But in light of the reports I've featured in this post, I'd leave room for the speculation that the fratricidal attacks (one of which, the one yesterday, was also aimed at ANA soldiers) were to take advantage of the rioting, in an all-out attempt to sway public opinion before the NDS/ANSF coordinated onslaught on infiltrators got up to full speed.

One thing Amrullah Saleh was never able to accomplish in his years at the NDS was getting the military and police forces on the same page with the NDS. Turf battles. (Read the entire 2011 report.) Now, clearly, the agencies at least understand the urgent necessity of working together. So now all the players that have been having a walk in the park at the expense of the ANSF and NATO know the game is going to get a lot harder for them.

In an uncertain world, you can be certain the players haven't taken the knowledge in the spirit of fair play -- particularly since they learned that the centerpiece of the new ISAF war strategy is to 'surge' U.S. military trainers to Afghanistan to train and support Afghan soldiers and police.

As to when the U.S. military announced the centerpiece -- on February 15. A week later came the Koran burning incident at Bagram Airfield.


bdoran said...

You seem to imply that when Saleh left infiltration spiked.

"Imagine something like that happening at the CIA -- the best at the agency standing up and saying in one voice, "Bye."

The Church Commission, from which I don't think they ever recovered, the work now being done by contractors. For some time.

Madhu said...

Yeah, I had the same thoughts about infiltration post Saleh. Said as much at Line of Departure a week or so ago?

Still think a much smaller intelligence focused mission would be more feasible. If we build it too big, we are hostage to all the various forces.