After a spate of green on blue attacks, attacks by uniformed Afghan police on NATO forces, NATO has announced that they are scaling back joint operations. This development goes to the very heart of the problems facing the future of NATO’s mission in Afghanistan.
With departure marked for 2014, a mere two years away, delivering a fully functioning, secure and safe Afghan police force and army appears to be very difficult. In a country such as Afghanistan, with vast terrain and a guerrilla force such as the Taliban, a public withdrawal timetable will prove difficult to stick to.
The Taliban have dug in and have begun to take advantage of the cracks
within the newly formed Afghan security forces. They are infiltrating the force because of the difficulties of vetting and the huge demand for people to come forward and serve in one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.
In 2011 there were 21 green on blue attacks which killed 35 people and in 2012 as of yet there has been 36 attacks with 51 fatalities. Compare this to 2007 – 2010 when there were 16 attacks and 34 deaths.
The Taliban have begun to use the tactic with devastating effect. The Taliban are determined. For example one man pretended to be injured before turning his gun on whoever came to his aid.
A look at history proves the enormity of the task. In Afghanistan, the British Empire failed and the Soviet Union were defeated. Now 11 years on we appear to be locked into a battle which seems to have no end.
Green on blue attacks are not only extremely damaging to human life in the region but damage the necessary trust and cooperation required to tackle the problems in Afghanistan. NATO’s announcement today that they are going to curb joint operations, has proved the damage done by the Taliban.
With NATO, British and US troops now constantly under threat, they are unable to complete a patrol without knowing if the man in uniform next to him will turn his gun on him or detonate a bomb.
The aim in Afghanistan is to leave behind a society that can maintain structure, law and order and democracy. A future which one must concede will involve elements of the Taliban. These attacks and the fallout of trust threatens the infrastructure that must exist to ensure a peaceful dialogue.
As of yet the future of Afghanistan and the NATO forces operation is unclear. A YouGov poll from May showed that 77% were in favour of leaving Afghanistan (split between those believing leave immediately and a more gradual withdrawal).
If we leave the country, we will try to draw a line under the past 11 years. There will be no more NATO deaths, but will those deaths have been in vain if the country falls into chaos? It is catch 22 of the most deadly sort.