Green on Blue’ Deaths Won’t Derail Strategy, Spokesman Says

WASHINGTON, March 1, 2012 — Three Afghan men killed two U.S. troops in south­ern Afghanistan today, Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary George Lit­tle told reporters today.

“We believe there were three attack­ers, [and] two of the attack­ers were sub­se­quent­ly killed” by coali­tion forces, he said.

“Our hearts go out to the fam­i­lies and the loved ones of the two U.S. ser­vice mem­bers who were killed,” the press sec­re­tary said.

While pre­cise details are unclear, Lit­tle said, reports indi­cate the two attack­ers who were killed were Afghan secu­ri­ty force mem­bers, and the third was an Afghan civil­ian. He acknowl­edged a rise in so-called “green-on-blue” inci­dents involv­ing Afghan army and police mem­bers killing NATO Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force troops.

“These are trou­bling inci­dents when they occur, and we ful­ly rec­og­nize that we’ve seen sev­er­al of these inci­dents in recent weeks,” Lit­tle said.

U.S. mil­i­tary lead­ers are work­ing to strength­en secu­ri­ty mea­sures at part­nered facil­i­ties and to step up their scruti­ny dur­ing vet­ting process­es for Afghan army and police recruits, Lit­tle said.

“This has been some­thing that has been on the radar screen … for some time,” he said. “This is a war zone. There’s no such thing as zero risk. But our strat­e­gy of work­ing close­ly with [Afghan forces] is not chang­ing.”

Lit­tle said U.S. forces will “stay the course” in Afghanistan. The over­all trend in rela­tions between the two sets of troops is pos­i­tive, he added.

He not­ed some ISAF advi­sors have returned to work in select Afghan min­istry build­ings in the Afghan cap­i­tal of Kab­ul. Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, com­man­der of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, ordered all ISAF mem­bers to with­draw from such work loca­tions after two U.S. offi­cers were killed while work­ing at the inte­ri­or min­istry Feb. 25.

Those killings and a report­ed 20 Afghan deaths occurred as vio­lent protests swept Afghanistan after ISAF troops inad­ver­tent­ly burned reli­gions mate­ri­als, includ­ing Qurans, at a deten­tion facil­i­ty in Bagram, Feb. 21.

Allen’s order that some min­istry advi­sors resume their duties in Afghan gov­ern­ment build­ings reflects the need for ISAF forces to main­tain close coor­di­na­tion with their Afghan coun­ter­parts, Lit­tle not­ed.

“It’s impor­tant to get back to work,” he said.

Lit­tle said the tran­si­tion of secu­ri­ty lead to Afghan forces con­tin­ues through­out the coun­try, and com­plet­ing that tran­si­tion is ISAF’s goal. “Our com­man­ders in the field … are stay­ing focused on the mis­sion [and] under­stand the stakes involved,” he said.

There is a “strong sense” among ISAF lead­ers in Afghanistan that “we must do every­thing we can to car­ry out the strat­e­gy, [which] we believe has been work­ing some time,” Lit­tle added.

Green-on-blue inci­dents are par­tic­u­lar­ly trou­bling, he acknowl­edged, but should not obscure the larg­er pic­ture of over­all progress in Afghanistan. The insur­gency is “on its heels,” he added.

Afghan forces have suf­fered loss­es along­side their ISAF part­ners, includ­ing over the past days while “try­ing to tamp down the protests in Afghanistan, and to quell the vio­lence,” Lit­tle said.

The strat­e­gy, approach and mis­sion in Afghanistan are not chang­ing, the press sec­re­tary empha­sized. “Our mis­sion is one of tran­si­tion, and it’s work­ing,” Lit­tle said. “We have over 300,000 [Afghan secu­ri­ty forces] right now who are work­ing along­side ISAF per­son­nel to help secure their own coun­try. And that’s the end state we are look­ing for here.”

War in Afghanistan has nev­er been con­ven­tion­al, and it’s not con­tained with­in neat bat­tle lines, he said. “But we’re work­ing through it, and the Afghans are work­ing in good faith with us to exe­cute the strat­e­gy,” he added.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)