Photo: flikr/The U.S. Army
Troops have been ordered to step up watching each others’ backs while they work alongside Afghan security forces, signaling a new departure in the U.S.-Afghan military relationship.
Americans working inside Afghan ministries are now allowed to carry weapons around their offices, reports the Associated Press. And they’ve been instructed to rearrange their desks to face the door, so they can keep an eye on who is coming in.
Troops have even been assigned “guardian angels” to watch over one another while they sleep.
David Cloud at the Tribune Washington Bureau reports any time troops are gathered on a joint base to work out, train, or sleep, one member of the unit must be armed and on watch for possible fratricide. That is, the killing of one’s own brother-in-arms in this case.
Gen. Allen told reporters someone is now “always over-watching our forces”. He didn’t go into much detail — a security measure in itself — but did confirm changes had been made.
“We have taken steps necessary on our side to protect ourselves with respect to, in fact, sleeping arrangements, [and] internal defenses associated with those small bases in which we operate,” he said.
A military official told the AP that Gen. Allen issued written instructions to get every troop’s attention.
They’re working closely with Afghan security forces and building relationships, but the truth is it’s a war zone.
Last month, two U.S. officers were shot dead inside the Afghan Interior Ministry, prompting the U.S. to pull more than 300 advisers out of Kabul. The Ministry said the suspect was believed to be an employee of the departments, reported the New York Times.
In another February attack, U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Edward Dycus was shot in the back of the head by a uniformed Afghan soldier while standing guard at an outpost in Helmand province.
The most recent insider killings happened on Monday when Army Sgt. William Wilson was shot dead at a check-point in Paktika Province, while another two British troops were shot at close-range in a separate incident the same day.
In response, defence Secretary Leon Panetta said attacks by friendly forces are not a trend, stating: “These still are sporadic incidents, and I don’t think they reflect any kind of broad pattern.”
We reported Secretary Panetta’s message was at odds with what Gen. Allen said about insider attacks being “characteristic” and “expected” in the kind of war the U.S. was dealing with in Afghanistan.
And it now appears Panetta’s remarks really have been nullified by Gen. Allen’s new directive to enhance troop security across Afghanistan.
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