THERE has been a worrying increase in the number of “green on blue” attacks on coalition troops by rogue members of the Afghan security forces, MPs have been told.
International Development Secretary Justine Greening said the government was taking “concrete action” to tackle the problem. Updating MPs on progress in Afghanistan yesterday, Ms Greening said working in partnership with Afghans was “not without risk” but was an essential part of the transition process.
Shadow international development secretary Ivan Lewis said there had been 34 incidents this year involving coalition forces resulting in 45 deaths. He demanded to know what steps were being taken to minimise the risk.
Providing the regular quarterly update on Afghanistan, Ms Greening said: “The increase in so-called insider threat attacks is, of course, concerning. We routinely assess and refine our force protection to meet mission requirements and best ensure the personal safety of our forces.
“We are also working closely with Isaf [International Security Assistance Force] and the Afghan government to take concrete action to reduce as far as possible the potential for such incidents in the future.
“Developing the Afghan national security forces is a key part of our strategy; they have an essential role in providing long-term security and governance in Afghanistan.
“Partnering is not without risk but it is essential to success. These incidents are not representative of the overwhelming majority of Afghan security forces. In fact, every day tens of thousands of coalition forces work successfully alongside their Afghan partners in a trusting relationship without incident.”
She outlined the UK’s commitment to support Afghanistan once combat operations had ceased by the end of 2014, stressing that “we are there for the long haul”.
That, she said, sent a “clear message” to the Taleban: “You cannot wait us out and now is the time to participate in a peaceful political process.”
Mr Lewis said: “In 34 green on blue attacks this year, 45 soldiers have been killed and 69 wounded. In the most recent incident on 29 August an Afghan soldier shot dead three Australian soldiers at a base in the south-central province of Uruzgan.”
He asked: “What protections have the government put in place to protect our forces from these attacks and what analysis has taken place into the causes and the potential solutions?”
In July, British civilian contractor Dave Chamberlain was shot dead by a gunman in Afghan National Army uniform.
Earlier that month, Guardsmen Craig Roderick and Apete Saunikalou Ratumaiyale Tuisovurua, of the 1st Battalion the Welsh Guards, and Warrant Officer Leonard Thomas, of the Royal Corps of Signals, were killed by a man in Afghan army uniform.
Foreign affairs select committee chairman Richard Ottaway urged Ms Greening to press for peace negotiations with the Taleban.
Tory MP Mr Ottaway said: “There’s widespread agreement that a political surge is needed with regional talks involving the Taleban and countries such as Pakistan, India and Russia.
Conservative John Baron claimed it was “obvious” the Taleban were unbeatable and that Britain was “fighting the wrong enemy in the wrong country”.
He said: “The key stumbling block to a diplomatic resolution remains the American refusal to conduct non-conditional talks with the Taleban.”