The enormous naval deployment in the Persian Gulf, coupled with the deluge of leaks and rumours about a pre-emptive strike by Israeli forces on Iran, has perhaps diverted attention from the war in Afghanistan until the events of this weekend. The attack on Camp Bastion by 15 Taliban fighters masquerading as US troops, which killed 2 American marines and destroyed or damaged considerable materiel and installations, has captured headlines over the weekend, not least because the Taliban claimed that their primary target was Prince Harry.
One possible response to the Taliban’s propaganda gambit is to point out that they failed in their alleged objective. Spokesmen for the British Army, which built Bastion, reject that assassinating the prince was the Taliban’s true aim of this carefully planned and well laid attack. But ISAF has forced to conduct a full security review into how such a raid could have taken place: Bastion is often referred to as ‘impregnable’.
There has been tragedy away from Bastion, too. A spate of ‘green-on-blue’ attacks has followed as men in the uniform of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police have turned their weapons on ISAF personnel. Eight coalition soldiers have been killed in three separate incidents over the last few days, two of them British. And a further British soldier was killed in IED explosion on Friday. It has been a black few days.
The number of these attacks has increased over the last two years; 51 servicemen have been killed in this manner so far this year. As the former defence secretary Liam Fox told Sky News today, ‘green-on-blue’ incidents are an unfortunate fact of life during a counter-insurgency. But the Americans judge the situation to be sufficiently serious to justify opening a full inquiry into the issue.
The Americans have been careful not to embarrass their Afghan colleagues, doing all it can to limit tensions between ISAF and Kabul. General John Allen released a written statement at the end of last week:
‘This is not simply a Green on Blue problem; it is a threat to both Green and Blue that requires a Green and Blue solution.’
That statement would suggest that while ISAF has to work closely with the Afghans, the Afghans must take on more responsibility for their own.