News24

Security failures in Afghan shootings: Nato

2012-04-02 21:25

Kabul - There have been failures in security procedures meant to identify potential killers of Western troops before they join Afghanistan's army and police, Nato-led international forces admitted on Monday.

So far this year 17 foreign troops, including at least seven Americans and five French trainers, have been shot dead by Afghan security personnel in 10 separate so-called "green on blue" killings.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is training Afghans to take over responsibility for security for the whole country by the end of 2014, said the deaths had sapped morale among its troops.

"Although the incidents are small in number we are aware of the gravity they have as an effect on morale," ISAF spokesperson Brigadier-General Carsten Jacobson said in Kabul.

"Every single incident has an out-of-proportion effect on morale and that goes for coalition forces as it goes for Afghan national security forces."

Recruits to the Afghan forces undergo an eight-step vetting process, including identification verification, recommendations and criminal background checks, but Jacobson said that investigations into the shootings had found lapses.

Improvements

"What we have found in individual cases is that there was a mistake done here, or there, or there," he told reporters.

"The identity papers weren't checked properly, the papers that were coming from village elders were not sufficient, drug tests were not taken regularly or sufficiently or something like that.

"Wherever we see that we take that as measures to be taken and improved."

Asked if some of the incidents could have been prevented, he responded: "Afterwards you always know that you shouldn't have had that car accident."

Among the measures being taken, Afghanistan's intelligence services are hiding agents among new recruits at the country's army and police training schools to try to spot potential gunmen, Nato said.

ISAF has also taken a number of security measures of its own in response to the shootings, including assigning "guardian angels", soldiers ordered to watch over their comrades as they sleep.

Personal grievances

The concept "makes sure that soldiers are not without protection at any stage", said Jacobson.

He dismissed repeated claims by the Taliban, the main militant group waging an insurgency against President Hamid Karzai's Western-backed government, that they were behind the attacks.

"The insurgency is claiming nearly every single incident for itself. Our findings are that in the vast majority... personal grievances are one of the major causes."

Insurgent involvement had been proved in only a few cases, he said.

Instead, there were a "number of other causes including stress syndromes on soldiers who are living in a country that has been 30 years at war".

An Afghan policeman poisoned and shot dead nine of his colleagues in the eastern province of Paktika last week.

Not drawing parallels

As a matter of leadership Afghan commanders need to keep a close eye on their soldiers to try to spot potential problems before they happen, Jacobson added.

"A soldier that has seen considerable battle stress has to be observed and a soldier who hasn't been on leave for a long time has to be looked at whether it is time to give them a break."

"Somebody who has been on leave with his family in a refugee camp in Pakistan has to be looked at when he comes back, soldiers who have problems at home, financial problems."

The relationship between Afghan and Nato forces is vital but tensions have also mounted this year due to incidents including a video of US forces urinating on Taliban corpses, copies of the Qur'an being burned, and a massacre of civilians in the south.

Jacobson clarified he was not drawing parallels between green-on-blue killings and the case of Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, the US soldier who has been charged with 17 murders in connection with a massacre in the southern province of Kandahar.

Bales has been reported in the US to have been suffering from financial problems.