Washington D.C.Congressman Adam Smith, Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, released the following statement on the growing number of “Insider Attacks” or “Green-on-Blue Attacks” taking place in Afghanistan:

The recent spike of “Insider Attacks” or “Green-on-Blue Attacks” is extremely worrisome.  All casualties in war are to be regretted.  But there is something particularly troubling about casualties caused by someone who is, or is supposed to be on our side.  We ask our brave men and women in uniform to take on many risks and dangers in wartime, but they shouldn’t be put at risk from their own side.  Eliminating the threat of “insider attacks” from members of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) should be one of our highest immediate priorities.

I am pleased to see that both U.S. and Afghan senior officials are taking this problem very seriously and have taken real steps to remedy the problem such as: re-vet the Afghan Local Police; double-check to ensure that all members of the ANSF were vetted properly at the time of recruitment; establish a new interview process for ANSF returning from leave ; establish early warning and threat reporting systems; require enhanced force protection measures for U.S. personnel, including the “Guardian Angel” program; provide additional predeployment training for all U.S. personnel regarding this threat and enhanced cultural awareness training for personnel who work in close proximity to the ANSF; and the deployment of additional counterintelligence personnel and resources to detect attempted Taliban infiltration. 

These are serious attempts to address this problem, but our commanders in Afghanistan must stay vigilant.  In our effort to build up the ANSF, we focused on recruiting as many Afghans as possible. At the time, that was the right thing to do.  Now, however, is the time to tighten the vetting process, even if it slows the pace of recruitment.  Insider attacks undermine the trust between our forces and the Afghan forces, and reliance on those forces is a key factor in our plan to wind down our involvement in Afghanistan.  As the Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, I take threats to our brave men and women in uniform extremely seriously, and I will continue to monitor this situation and provide whatever assistance Congress can to our commanders in Afghanistan as they work to bring an end to this troublesome threat.

Not all insider threats are the same.  Some were the result of Taliban infiltration or coercion.  In some cases we don’t know what caused the attack, because the attacker was killed by U.S. or Afghan troops. A large percentage of the attacks have been for personal reasons or cultural friction or a combination of both, leading to a fight or argument that ended extremely badly.  This friction is almost unavoidable—no people would be happy with 100,000 foreign troops carrying out combat operations in their country, and removing this friction is one reason why I believe we should look for ways to accelerate the transition of responsibility for security and governance to the Afghan people and redeploy U.S. personnel from Afghanistan as soon as we responsibly can. Until that redeployment is accomplished, we must redouble our efforts to end the threat of insider attacks.

Our brave men and women in uniform have fought and died in Afghanistan for the last ten years, and their sacrifices have brought real progress.  We thank them for their efforts and their sacrifice.  But after ten years of war, and great cost to both the American and Afghan people, it is time to find additional ways to put the Afghans in charge of their own fate as quickly as we responsibly can and bring our troops home.