Green on blue attacks are on the rise.
With increasing frequency, Afghan soldiers, police officers and even cooks are turning on their ISAF comrades with devastating consequences.
Thanks to an audacious attack on Camp Bastion – the most fortified city in the world – followed by the murder of two soldiers from the Third Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment by a man in an Afghan police uniform, the world and its father waded into the discussion on whether or not to reduce joint patrols, last month.
The idiosyncrasies of the conflict in Afghanistan still confound me. Despite all the time I have spent out there – embedded with troops from all nations (including the Afghans themselves), development trips, political tours, and even the odd holiday – I still feel there are more in the know than me.
So instead of plunging into the argument with both feet I interviewed the man who literally wrote the book on partnered patrols, Captain Patrick Hennessey, for the November edition of Loaded.
In 2007 the former Grenadier Guard spent six months mentoring Afghan troops.
Does he believe the rise in green on blue attacks is the result of growing resentment from our host nation? Or possibly the payoff from years of double-agent work by the Taliban?
“Usually not,” he explains bluntly.
“Everyone talks about it as if it’s that Leonardo DiCaprio film The Departed, and you’ve got some Taliban sleeper that’s infiltrated the British Army laying low. But the issue is a lot more complex than a two-dimensional Taliban strategy – which can mean that it’s even more difficult to counteract.”
It is only recently that the world accepted the realities of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Scores of soldiers have developed it from six months on the frontline.
Many Afghan troops, however, have spent a solid six years fighting, with only four weeks out of every 52 to go back to their home province.
In short, many of the attacks have been conducted by young men suffering with PTSD, according to Captain Hennessey.
And after their moment of madness they run to the only people that will have them – the Taliban. Who happily claim responsibility.
So how do we stop more green on blue attacks? Ending joint patrols? Simply drawing down our presence?
After an hour talking to Patrick I’d guess not.
In fact, like everything with Afghanistan, there is no one easy answer.
But increasing the number of Afghan troops and allowing them a little more time away from the frontline might be a start.
(Patrick Hennessey’s ‘Kandak’ is available to buy now…and it’s incredibly good.)