“Green on blue” in Helmand – what the international media don’t tell you
By Catriona Laing, FCO UK Senior Representative, Southern Afghanistan
So Chicago has come and gone and the outcome has ensured the international community’s commitment post 2014. The funding pledges for Afghan security forces have been made; the international community has signalled it is with Afghanistan for the long-term but reminded their public of why we are here; “ to stop it becoming a haven for terrorist training” as David Cameron said. President Karzai is working to ensure “that Afghanistan is no longer a burden on the shoulder of our friends in the international community”. So a compact is emerging and everyone seems to have come away content.
Afghan Police at Lashkar Gah Training Centre
These high level discussions can feel rather distant in Helmand Province. The local media here has covered Chicago but this has been squeezed alongside coverage of day to day items of poetry festivals, canal clearing projects, local political scandals and sadly the latest deaths from the conflict.
The recent incidents of “green on blue”, where rogue Afghan security forces turn their guns on ISAF military, has been a theme in the run up to Chicago both here and in capitals. But these incidents are reported very differently in the international media from the local media.
On 12 May there was a green on blue incident in Lashkar Gah District. Lance Corporal Lee Davies from the 1st tBatalion Welsh Guards and Corporal Brent McCarthy from the RAF Police were shot and killed by two rogue Afghan policemen. Investigations are still underway as to what triggered the incident. For the international media this was a hook to draw conclusions around erosion of trust between British soldiers and the Afghans they are training. Local journalists reported on how swiftly and professionally other Afghan police from the same police unit reacted to the incident, including shooting one of the rogue policemen and embarking on aggressive patrolling of the area in an attempt to locate the second.
Afghan police in Helmand
The following day British conducted a joint security meeting with the same Afghan police company, with local nationals in the area, to show that the relationship was not broken. And as an example of solidarity, one of the most senior policeman in the Province, Col Ismail, attended the vigil held here at the base. The result and shared shock of this tragic incident has only served to strengthen the relationship between the British military and the Afghans they are training. This is an important piece of ground truth which the international media should be willing to report.