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Sep 25

Written by: Diana West
Sunday, September 25, 2011 4:48 AM 

Five British soldiers shot and killed by a 'rogue' Afghan policeman in Helmand province in November 2009. In all, at least 37 40 Western troops have been killed by Afghan "allies" in the past 22 months.

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London Telegraph: "Commanders ignored warnings that British troops were at risk from attack by Afghan allies: carry a loaded pistol whenever working alongside them, secret Nato report warned"

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.

And "trust" is the holy grail of the West in Afghanistan. (Tried it in Pakistan, too.)

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.

The Telegraph count is way short. Fifteen Between 11 and 16 Americans were killed by Afghan "allies" in April 2011 alone. (The high number includes five "foreign" troops killed and not further identified.) Using this timeline from Reuters (April 2011) plus this report about two more American murders and this report about one more British murder  (and possibly that of a second Western soldier), both from July 2011, the total comes to at least 37 40 Western troops and security contractors killed by Afghan "allies" in the past 22 months.

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.

Wearing body armor, by the way, is believed to be offensive to Afghans.

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.

Despite the deaths, commanders maintain that there has been no breakdown in trust between British and Afghan troops. ...

And "trust" is all that counts. As Brig. Gen. Steven Kwast so inimitably put it in 2009, "Victory in this conflict is about winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people and engendering their trust. When the Afghan people trust us and believe us ... we will win this overnight."

An MoD spokesman said the training of Afghan security forces would never be completely “free of risk”.

He added: “Overly aggressive measures, like making all service personnel deploy with loaded side arms, are likely to create threats where there were previously none.

“Local commanders have to find a balance between effective internal security and a strong relationship with their Afghan counterparts which can only be built on trust.”

In COIN we trust.

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