I shudder each time I read about an Afghan soldier killing an American service member or a coalition counterpart.
My mind is quick to think back to when Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Rex Temple willingly went before a class of 100 Afghan soldiers and let them question him about being an “infidel.”
Twice he appeared at the invitation of the ANA Mullah and Religious Officer.
Temple was eager to learn about the soldiers and hoped they would be open to hearing about the U.S. He was shocked to find that virtually none of the soldiers in the class knew about the 9/11 attacks on America.
I remember discussing safety with him. He walked into those ANA classes armed only with his sidearm and boxes full of free pens and notebooks. Rex was rushed by dozens of soldiers at one point – not for his weapon – but for the school supplies. The soldiers were worried there wouldn’t be enough.
He is retired in June 2011, but from May 2009 to April 2010 Rex served on an Embedded Training Team in Afghanistan.
The Afghan soldier attacks seem to strike at the very core of what Rex tried to accomplish just a few years ago.
Now, the “Green-on-Blue” attacks – as they’re called – are becoming all too common as pointed out by the Stars and Stripes.
For years U.S. military leaders downplayed the attacks, but now they are blunt in their assesment. This week, the top commander in Afghanistan, USMC Gen. John Allen, told “60 Minutes”: “You know, we’re willing to sacrifice a lot for this campaign, but we’re not willing to be murdered for it.”
But, as Brandon Caro writes in the Daily Beast, that the 53 Afghan attacks on U.S and NATO forces this year should not be a surprise.
Early in my tour, I was well aware that any of the soldiers we were training could at any time turn their weapons on me and my fellow advisers.
The first indication that the Afghans we were training posed a potential threat came on a fiercely cold morning in early 2007 in Darulaman. Before we set out on a routine convoy with our Afghan counterparts, we had to line them up shoulder to shoulder and collect their cellphones one at a time. We did this—it was already standard operating procedure—because our leadership feared that the Afghan soldiers might give away our position to enemy fighters.
I read these and other accounts and I think back to Rex and his ETT group that built a library for their ANA counterparts among other acts of “good will” like starting a school supplies drive for Afghan children.
I am left mystified … thankful that Rex returned home and sorry that so many others have not.