Relations between U.S.-led coalition forces and Afghan troops are at an all time low, according to a spate of new reports. And besides resulting in the deaths of U.S. troops, it's also prompting at least one NATO ally to look for an early exit strategy.
In today's New York Times, Matthew Rosenberg obtains a classified coalition report, originally reported in The Wall Street Journal, detailing the "deep-seated animosity" between coalition forces and Afghan soldiers—a troubling finding given that building up a functioning Afghan army is one of the Obama administration's most important goals in the war effort.
Testimonials from Afghans and U.S. troops expose the deep tensions between the ostensible allies. An Afghan Army colonel tells the newspaper his troops include "thieves, liars and drug addicts," but notes that American troops are "rude, arrogant bullies who use foul language." He says, "The sense of hatred is growing rapidly” between the two camps. Another Afghan soldier says U.S. soldiers "get upset due to their casualties, so they take it out on civilians during their searches." Another adds, “U.S. soldiers don’t listen, they are too arrogant.” On the American side, the respect for Afghan allies is very low as well. “They are stoned all the time; some even while on patrol with us,” one soldier said. “They are pretty much gutless in combat; we do most of the fighting,” added another.
Unfortunately, the growing resentment shines through in casualty statistics. "The classified report found that between May 2007 and May 2011, when it was completed, at least 58 Western service members were killed in 26 separate attacks by Afghan soldiers and the police nationwide," reports the newspaper. The latest incident occurred today when an Afghan soldier killed four French service members and injured 15 others in eastern Afghanistan, which followed a similar assault by an Afghan soldier last month resulting in the deaths of two French soldiers.
A recent development that hasn't helped ease tensions between Afghans and NATO forces is the video of four Marines urinating on three corpses in Afghanistan, reports Reuters. "News of the clip spread fast across Afghanistan, even though only a minority of people have electricity and the internet is restricted to a tiny urban elite," the news agency writes. "Radio can reach remote militants and villagers and mobile phones are used by many Afghans, on both sides of the war, for storing and sharing videos even in remote areas with little communications infrastructure."
An Afghan militant named Qari Babar said he was first alerted to the video by radio but once he saw it, the reaction was immediate. "Every one is now desperately trying to find U.S. soldiers to take revenge for the desecration of the bodies," he said.