Partnership is an essential aspect of our counterinsurgency strategy. It is also an indispensible element of the transition of responsibility to Afghans.
- COMISAF Tactical Directive, Revision 3, 7 July 2011
This week, the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan suspended joint operations below the battalion level in response to an increase in "green-on-blue" attacks against international coalition forces by their Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) partners. The decision comes on the heels of the release of a movie that has inflamed the Muslim world, as well as two "insider attacks" last weekend that resulted in the deaths of six coalition members. At face value, the decision is understandable. Yet considering the importance that ISAF has placed on joint operations as the lynchpin of our strategy to withdraw from Afghanistan, one has to ask, "what kind of calculus goes into making this decision? And what impact will this have on our combat operations going forward?"
In terms of the calculus that goes into making such a decision, ISAF leaders had to weigh the safety of coalition troops with a decrease in combat effectiveness. But with 51 coalition deaths at the hands of their ANSF partners (also referred to as "green-on-blue" attacks) this year alone the decision seems prudent.
There is precedence for such action, as military units have been known to conduct "stand downs," -- a pause in training or combat operations -- in order to address a serious issue. In this case, halting joint operations allows ISAF leaders at all levels to evaluate their security posture, establish standard operating procedures to deal with insider attacks, and to imprint a mindset in all service members that "yes, the ANSF are your partners, but be alert and prepared 24/7."