“We are growing an enormous army in Afghanistan,” said the officer. “That means recruits aren’t extensively vetted, and their limited pay makes them extremely susceptible to inducement by the enemy to kill NATO forces either from bribes or threats to their families.
“This isn’t about the Afghan national army being infiltrated. This is about the susceptibility of its forces to inducements.”
In 2009 congressional testimony, U.S. commanders said a Taliban soldier earns about $300 a month, more than twice the salary for an Afghan soldier whose pay has since been increased to stay competitive with that of the enemy.
Another factor, the special-operations officer said, is that the Afghan army is viewed suspiciously by the majority Pashtuns in the south. The army is now ethnically diverse and includes members of the old Northern Alliance who fought the Pashtun Taliban in the 1990s.
“The Taliban can target any ethnicity in the ranks, but the Pashtun would generally be easier,” the officer said.
The problem is not just screening recruits. It also is keeping an eye on police and soldiers to detect behavior that might tip off a green on blue attack.
A case study is the killing of two U.S. soldiers last March at Forward Operating Base Frontenac.
The Afghan attacker, a security guard, was fired in 2010 for making statements about killing Americans. His employer, Tundra Security, recommended that he not be rehired. But the information was not inserted into his file and the attacker was rehired the next year — by the same firm.
As a result, base commanders must screen all Afghan nationals who come on and off the base on at least a weekly basis. U.S. units assign “guardian angels” to keep watch over Afghans during missions. The government also is setting up a counterintelligence program to try to weed out disloyal troops.
“So this is a thinking enemy that we’re dealing with here, a cunning enemy who wants to hurt us. And every now and then the enemy’s going to have some success,” Army Brig. Gen. Stephen Townsend, of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, told Congress last month.
“So what we’re trying to do is eliminate as much as possible, reduce the possibility that that can happen, but we can’t eliminate it completely.”
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