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“Green on blue” in Helmand – what the international media don’t tell you

May 29, 2012

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.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Claudio Alpaca permalink
    May 29, 2012 18:19

    That such incidents may happen is real challenge: more reactions towards west are still present on minds of more afghans, either members of afghan army or police, than member of society. This is part of the people’s transition phase. We must not enhance them more than due, as we risk to vanify all sacrifices made on this years.
    We condolence for the deaths of our buddies, killed by extreme resistence. We may consider that there is, or there may be infiltration of terrorism’s member and this is a high risk. But this happen also on civil and democratic countries. Our duty is a sctrict vigilance as this moment is that where we misure ourself and our capacities, that are present and endoubtly,. Claudio Alpaca

  2. May 29, 2012 19:26

    This is a very difficult and emotive subject. The public by and large do not really know or understand what is happening in Afghanistan or even how the local Afghani population in general view the presence of the ISAF troops. All they ever see and hear is what the International press report and this is in general a one sided report. Without the political and nationalistic intrigue that they bring into their reporting, the International press would not really have any sensational stories to print in order to sell their papers. Based on this one sided reporting the International public make ill-formed judgements and believe that the only items of any worth happening in Afghanistan are detrimental to the functioning of the ISAF troops. Having been to Afghanistan and worked there on a number of occassions since 2004, I have seen the other side and the positive effects that this has on the Afghani people and how the relationship has developed and grown stronger with the International community in Afghanistan. When I tell people this they do not believe me because they have not read this in the International press. It is only through articles that can be published in social media outlets like this that we can change these perceptions and increase the public awareness of what is actually happening on the ground. It is not all blue on blue, green on blue or innocent civilians struck by Nato bombs, there is a lot of good happening in the country and it goes unreported. Keep up the good work and please publish more reports like this so that people can see what a change the ISAF troops are helping to bring to this country and how it is appreciated by the majority.

  3. ian davidson permalink
    May 29, 2012 23:32

    to be honest the BBC in the UK did state that other police units in the afghan side did act quickly taking out one gunman and were looking for another wounded person within half a day of this attack

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