U.S. airstrike launched on terrorists after apparent ‘insider attack’ in Afghanistan

January 15, 2018

The war in Afghanistan began shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York City and Washington, but almost two decades later, with over 2,000 American troops dead and many more Americans “weary of war without victory,” there seemed to be no end in sight — until now.

President Donald Trump and his administration may be on the path toward finally ending the 17-year conflict. U.S. forces conducted an airstrike on an Afghan government militia on Thursday, killing as many as 13 Islamic fighters.

An Insider Attack

According to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military alliance’s Resolute Support mission, insurgents had opened fire on an Afghan militia leader, a U.S. service member from an undisclosed branch of the military, and an interpreter in an apparent insider attack. Spokesman Tom Gresback described the attack as a bait-and-switch operation:

An insurgent-affiliated group posing as local militia…baited a local Afghan militia leader and a U.S. service member with an Afghan interpreter into a compound under the pretense of a security…meeting.

After the meeting was over, “multiple members of the insurgent group” opened fire, according to Gresback, killing the militia leader and wounding the U.S. soldier and interpreter.

The U.S. responded with an airstrike on the group. While various figures have been released for the number of casualties, the NATO mission has denied rumors that any American troops were killed in the attack.

The Taliban later claimed responsibility for the attack. A spokesman for that group claimed that two of their militants had killed 16 American troops.

Green On Blue Attacks Continue

“Green-on-blue” type attacks, in which members of the Afghan military turn on and attack coalition forces, often during training exercises, remain an ongoing problem in the Middle Eastern nation. Western officials say they are usually the result of personal conflicts or cultural differences.

But while they may be personal in nature, these type of attacks made up 15 percent of all U.S. deaths in Afghanistan in 2012.

This number has declined since then due to security measures, as well as the decreasing number of troops in the war-torn country, but a U.S. general was killed by an Afghan soldier while visiting a military training facility in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2014 — one of 14 such insider attacks that year.

While this airstrike fought back against what can be assumed to be another personal or cultural conflict, some are viewing it as a major step toward American withdrawal from the nation, which has been at war since a military coup in 1978. The U.S. increased the number of airstrikes sharply near the end of 2017, and this appears to be a continuation of that strategy.

At this point in the conflict, Afghan security forces are doing a large portion of the fighting against Islamic State insurgents and Taliban members. American troops serve in a training and advisory capacity in most cases, although they do serve next to the Afghans on the front lines at times.

Still, with less than 10,000 U.S. troops left in the country, there remains no timetable for withdrawal or victory — just rumors. Time will tell what the president has planned for the conflict in 2018.


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Kit Perez

Kit Perez is a Conservative Institute contributor. She is an intelligence analyst with a dual specialty in counterintelligence and HUMINT. She writes on national security, tech, and privacy issues. Kit has a B.A. in Counterintelligence and an M.A. in Intelligence Studies from American Military University.