In a recent interview, Lockheed’s chief executive, Robert Stevens, said defense contractors were assessing the costs and the risks of keeping personnel in Afghanistan as the uniformed military presence shrinks.
“If there’s an expectation that says companies are going to be there, then we’re going to ask, are we going to get enough security?” he said. “Who’s going to support this, from where? What would the logistics footprint look like, what would the personnel requirement look like, what would the security environment look like? Those are all reasonable questions.”

This is a conversation I have been contemplating for awhile now, and I have been trying to figure out the best way to approach this problem. Bottom line is that the discussion on insider attacks or green on blue attacks on contractors is not happening out there. We are absolutely being left out of the conversation in regards to these incidents, and yet contractors are a vital to the training and logistics initiatives all throughout Afghanistan.

It is also well known that training of Afghan police/military is a major element of the exit strategy from Afghanistan. Contractors are right there in the action with their military counterparts, and they are also being killed and wounded by insiders–like the military. I have blogged about our strategic value to the war effort before, and it is amazing to me how little is being said about this industry’s contribution…and sacrifice.

Most of all, what are the directives to companies on how best to deal with this problem?  Are all of the companies on the same sheet of music when it comes to countering this problem, or are they all doing their own thing? What is the best way of countering this?….  So that is what I would like to talk about in this post.

First of all, let’s discuss some of the statistics or lack there of. Meaning, no one is tracking contractor deaths specifically and I am only able to draw from assembled military related statistics. The Long War Journal has done a good job of this.

Most of the insider attacks are happening in the south, with the Helmand Province being the top spot. Most of the attacks had to be stopped by killing the individual(s). Here is a break down of how many folks have been killed or wounded due to insider attacks since January 1, 2008.

Numbers of Coalition troops and affiliates killed and wounded by green-on-blue attacks:

The total number of Coalition casualties from green-on-blue attacks for the period Jan. 1, 2008 to the present is 109. The total number of Coalition wounded is 89.

Green-on-blue casualties per year, and percentage of Coalition deaths caused by such attacks:

2012 – 45 – 14%

2011 – 31 – 6%

2010 – 21 – 3%

2009 – 10 – 2%

2008 – 2 – less than 1%

Green-on-blue wounded per year:

2012 – 45

2011 – 23

2010 – 7

2009 – 11

2008 – 3

As you can see, this is a trend that is increasing, but we are also training a bunch of police and military. So with that increase in personnel being trained comes an increase of trainers and their exposure to this sea of questionable folks.

The other thing to look at is who are these guys?  Well, according to the latest reportage, General Allen has given a quick look at the ratio.

Previously, NATO military officials had said that only about 10 percent of the insider attacks could be attributed to Taliban infiltration or impersonation of Afghan security units. But on Thursday, General Allen said that in addition to that infiltration figure, another roughly 15 percent of the attacks could be caused by Taliban coercion of soldiers or police officers, either directly or through family members.
Because most of the attackers had been killed or had escaped, and not captured alive for interrogation, it was difficult to provide firm statistics, he said. He also noted that more Afghans than Western troops had been killed by such insider attacks.

Man, those are some pretty sobering statistics, and I shudder to think how many of these deaths and injuries were contractors? I would think that contractor statistics tend to match military statistics, because we are doing the same job and working in the same environment. But I can’t say for sure, and it is only assumed. I have covered contractor deaths resulting from insider attacks before–in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Ok, so now that is covered, what is the military doing to counter this? Time magazine wrote a great article that listed what we are doing based on a briefing that Secretary of Defense Panetta and General Dempsey put out last month. Here they are.

– “First, to increase the intelligence presence, so that we can try to get better information with regards to these kinds of potential attacks.

– “Also, to increase counterintelligence, to have people trained in counterintelligence to be part of these units so that they can, as well, identify those threats.

– “We have a thorough vetting process. It’s an eight-step process. We’re doing forensics on the particular instances that occur in order to make sure, you know, how that process.

— that vetting process operated and what we can do to improve it.

– “Implementing a notification process, so that when we get information we can alert people to the threats.

– “Training requirements — we’re not only implementing training requirements with regards to our forces, but the Afghans are doing the same to try to identify these people.

– “We have a guardian angel program which involves identifying one individual who stands to the side so that he can watch people’s backs and hopefully identify people that would be involved in those attacks.”

I also understand that pamphlets are being handed out to military personnel at the various FOBs and outposts in regards to countering this stuff. If you are a contractor in these areas, try to grab one of these to figure out your strategy for dealing with this threat. Especially if you are looking for ideas of souping up your own SOP’s and policies. Or if you are just looking for personal strategies on how to counter this stuff because your company has not given sufficient guidance.

Now to comment on some of these ideas and initiatives, and how this applies to contractors. My view is to find what works and copy it. To learn from others whom have dealt with this in the past, and in other parts of the world and in other wars, and borrow some brilliance as they say.  Analyze and synthesize.

First is the personal strategy. Petition your company to allow you to be armed and carry loaded on FOBs and outposts, and seriously consider using a retention holster.  I use the Safariland ALS, just so I can have some form of retention for my pistol. An insider attack can be as simple as someone taking your pistol or rifle and using it against you and your group. Something to think about there, and it looks like the military is finally waking up to the idea of making sure everyone on FOBs and outposts that have weapons, carry them loaded. Contractors who have weapons issued, should be allowed to do so as well.

Wearing body armor is a no brainer when it comes to training or working around questionable type folks. Having some medical items on you as well as a flashlight is crucial to survival as well. Insider attacks could happen night or day, or the attacker might go into a bunker or dark hiding place in order to escape when being hunted. A flashlight is a life saving tool if you want to search for persons and destroy them in that kind of situation.

Positioning yourself in your environment for optimum survival is a good one. Kind of think of yourself as the ‘principal’, and you are a close protection officer for your person.  Where would you position yourself for the highest chance of survival in any given situation and position?  What is your escape route and what would you do if an insider attacked, happened right then and there, day or night?  Constantly ask this question wherever you are at, and apply some OODA.

Another solution is to use a similar guardian angel program for contractors. Some guys I have talked with actually set up a guard with a machine gun to overlook the training of folks. It sends a pretty loud message and keeps everyone ‘civil’ at ranges. But it can also create mistrust and division–which is not good for that essential unit cohesion that we all need in the war in order to operate as a unified team. Yet again, security for training needs to be evaluated and it must be determined what is best for that specific contract and set of circumstances.

The final one is intelligence. Or better yet, know yourself and know your enemy (Sun Tzu). You must have someone on the ‘inside’ to find these insiders and to determine the general mood and demeanor of those you are training and working with. This insider can also be used to fine tune your management and trainers working with these guys to ensure they are not making folks angry enough to go on a shooting spree.

Why is this important? Well remember that post I did about how damaging bad bosses really are? Well if you have a trainer(s) that are abusing Afghan trainees, or running their programs poorly, or doing something to aggravate these guys, then that is something you can find with an insider. Especially from a cultural point of view, because a trainer might be doing something incredibly offensive and not even know it. An insider within the trainee group could help fine tune the contract. I liken these insiders as more ‘mystery shoppers’ than moles, and companies can use these guys to optimize the contract/mission, evaluate the management, and find the bad apples.

But of course this is a fine line to walk, and companies should not abuse this concept of operation. They should also work hard to ensure that whom they put into that role is briefed on how to do this properly. The end goal is you want to see your company and client in their most natural states and get a true feel for what is happening so that solutions are ‘real solutions’ to ‘real problems’. Or companies can throw darts at the solution board and use hope as a means for success or for finding these insiders.

Well, that is about all I have on this. This will at least get the conversation going and get everyone talking within their organizations on how best to counter this threat. –Matt


Hoping to foil infiltrators, Afghans will spy on recruits
August 21, 2012
Afghan officials say they have launched an expanded effort to spy on their own police and army recruits, an acknowledgment that previous measures designed to reduce insurgent infiltration in the country’s security services have failed.
The steps come amid a spate of “insider’’ attacks that have shaken the US-Afghan military partnership during a stage of the war that hinges on close partnership between the two forces.
Nine US troops have been killed by their Afghan counterparts in the past 12 days, and 40 coalition service members have died in insider attacks so far this year.
President Obama, in his most extensive comments to date on the issue, said Monday that his administration is ‘‘deeply concerned about this, from top to bottom.’’
The Afghan measures include the deployment of dozens of undercover intelligence officers to Afghan security units nationwide, increased surveillance of phone calls between Afghan troops and their families, and a ban on cellphone use among new recruits to give them fewer opportunities to contact the insurgency, Afghan officials say.
The initiatives appear aimed at addressing US criticism that the Afghan security forces are not doing enough to ferret out insurgents within their ranks. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Martin Dempsey, was in Kabul on Monday for consultations on the matter, and Obama said he would soon be ‘‘reaching out’’ to President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.

‘‘Soldiers must feel that they are under the full surveillance of their leadership at all levels,’’ said the Afghan army chief of staff, General Sher Mohammad Karimi, in an interview after meeting with Dempsey and other US commanders. ‘‘Initially, it will have a negative impact on morale, but we have to do something. We have to look seriously at every individual.’’
NATO has taken steps in recent days to try to limit the attacks, which the Taliban leader Mohammad Omar has described as an integral part of his group’s strategy.
Across Afghanistan, service members have been asked to keep their weapons loaded at all times, according to coalition officials. NATO has also activated an existing program, dubbed the ‘‘Guardian Angels,’’ in which coalition troops enter meetings with Afghan officials prepared to quell an insider attack if one should occur.
Obama said US forces already are ‘‘seeing some success when it comes to better counterintelligence, making sure that the vetting process for Afghan troops is stronger.’’ But, he added, ‘‘obviously, we’re going to have to do more.’’
Story here.