President Obama last week addressed the growing problem of “green on blue” attacks in Afghanistan, when members of Afghan security forces turn their guns on their Western partners. “We are concerned about this, from top to bottom,” the president said. In the two weeks before he spoke, there were seven “insider attacks,” killing nine Americans. About 40 coalition troops have been killed by Afghan allies this year. Addressing the unprecedented dangers trainers may face from their own trainees, the president went on to say, “We’ve got what’s called the ‘Guardian Angels’ program,” a stationing of armed NATO soldiers to monitor Afghans and protect Westerners.
This is worse than just another wrenching turn in a heartbreaking 11-year war. Last week saw the 2,000th US death. The coalition total is almost 3,000. A breakdown in trust between coalition troops and their Afghan partners cuts to the quick of the “surge” strategy Obama embraced in 2010. The time-limited escalation of the American effort was supposed to help Afghans summon the competence and will to secure their own country, enabling the NATO withdrawal in 2014. “As Afghans stand up,” Obama told the NATO gathering in May, “they will not stand alone.”