Photo: flikr/U.S. Army
As the combat role of NATO forces in Afghanistan begins to draw down, troops are focusing more on training local forces to take the counterinsurgency beyond 2014.The worrying reality is that hostile incidents between Afghan trainees and Western troops have flared up over the years with “green on blue” violence — Afghan soldiers attacking their NATO partners. Two recent American deaths were the result of a violent Koran burning protest.
The U.S. Army is preparing its soldiers by sending them for role-played practice missions at the Joint Readiness Training centre in Fort Polk where they learn how to build working relationships with their Afghan counterparts and get graded on how they deal with typical scenarios.
The program is just four months old and was designed after commanders in Afghanistan asked for Army teams specifically for training the local security forces, reported NPR News.
The Army has created a mini Afghanistan in the form of a simulated village called “Marghoz” — complete with villagers played by actors, surprise attacks by suicide bombers, coordinated firefights with mock Afghan soldiers, and important culturally-sensitive meetings (the shura) where U.S. troops practice keeping quiet and paying attention to local needs. They even serve each other tea.
Tom Bowman of NPR recorded a radio package of what goes down in Marghoz.
You hear chatter in a foreign language as Lieutenant Colonel Mark Schmitt, who’s taking the three-week training course, interacts with a village elder about the security problems in the area.
Photo: flikr/Morning Calm News
As the soldiers in the role-play step out of a hut and into the open air, they are accosted by a suicide bomber. The men are assessed on the hour-long firefight that ensues with their Afghan partners at their side. Bowman says that the first graduates of the Marghoz training course will deploy to Afghanistan this Spring. Lt. Colonel Schmitt will lead one of the 50 Army teams heading there to train Afghan forces.
According to Sardar Ahmad reporting from Kabul for the AFP, President Karzai has said that the international forces community lead by the U.S. will provide $4.1 billion annually for 10 years post-2014 to subsidise Afghan security forces. Western officials haven’t confirmed that sum, although President Karzai went ahead with the announcement in front of a graduation ceremony at a Kabul military academy this week.
During this past week’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on the situation in Afghanistan, the subject of green on blue attacks was raised with concern. 22,000 U.S. troops are scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan by this fall as the training and development teams roll in.
There have been seven such deaths this year already with one in February that was not initially reported by the Pentagon, amid internet claims that there was a cover-up. The Associated Press uncovered that Marine Lance Cpl. Edward Dycus was shot in the back of the head by a uniformed Afghan while standing guard at a U.S.-Afghan base in Marja district, Helmand Province.
Gen. John Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, testified that such attacks have killed 52 Americans and wounded another 68 since 2007 when the Pentagon started keeping track of the incidents.
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