As the lines are constantly blurred between peace and combat in Afghanistan, Saturday saw those lines definitively show combat. During joint operations involving American and Afghan soldiers a shootout erupted. Early reports suggest there are at least six American casualties, but it is not known how many fatalities there are. There are also reports of six Afghan casualties.

The shootout took place in Nangarhar Province where U.S. Special Forces were located. The Special Forces are there to aid the Afghan Army and Afghan Commandos push any Taliban fighters out of the area. Currently, it is not clear if the shootout was with Taliban fighters or a result of an insider attack on American soldiers. Such insider attacks have come to be known as green-on-blue attacks.

In 2012, over a two week period 10 American military members were killed by Afghan security officers. There had been 30 attacks that year which was up from 11 green-on-blue attacks in 2011. In August 2012, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff went to Afghanistan to discuss the attacks. Green-on-blue attacks were not limited to American military members. In June 2012, four French soldiers were killed by an Afghan soldier. Shortly after, President Nicolas Sarkozy announced France was suspending the training and assisting of Afghan forces. Due to the fact gunmen wore official Afghan uniforms it wasn’t clear if they were Afghan police officers, insurgents, or soldiers.

According to The American Forces Press Service, Gen. Dempsey was concerned about the influence terrorists had over the Afghan police. In a statement Dempsey said ” ‘The vulnerability of local police to (terrorist) influence is great … They don’t move around the country the way the Army does, so they live at the point of corruption. I’m sure that’s the case here too”. He went on to say “Are the local police more vulnerable to those kind of activities? Absolutely.” 

Today’s attack comes on the heels of the January 27 crash of an E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN). The crash resulted in the deaths of Air Force crew members Lt. Col. Paul K. Voss, 46 and Capt. Ryan S. Phaneuf, 30. (See E-11A Crash) All of this comes as fruitless peace talks take place between the United States and the Taliban. On February 2, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to inform him that nothing of significance has come out of his peace talks with Taliban leaders. According to the Presidential Palace, although he did not offer a time frame, Khalilzad expressed that he remained hopeful in reaching an agreement to reduce hostilities.

The war in Afghanistan, aka Operation Enduring Freedom, aka Operation Freedom’s Sentinel has been ongoing since october 7, 2001. There have been at least 2,400 American military members killed and over 20,000 wounded in Afghanistan.

James Cheef