Transcript: Press briefing Q&A with ISAF Deputy Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Australian Army Brig. Gen. Roger Noble on green on blue attacks in Afghanistan
Edited by Jenny Jiang
Transcript of press briefing Q&A with ISAF Deputy Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Australian Army Brig. Gen. Roger Noble on green on blue attacks in Afghanistan (Sept. 19, 2012):
QUESTION: General Noble, I understand you’ve been developing a profile of the individuals who are carrying out these insider attacks. Can you — can you not hear me? You’ve been developing a profile of the individuals who are carrying out these insider attacks. And so, I mean, beyond the generalized distinction of them either being Taliban or being legitimate Afghan security force members, could you give us a more nuanced description or view of that profile?
And a related question. As you look into the Camp Bastion attack, have you got any indication at this point that anybody inside the camp, any Afghans have played any role in either helping plan or execute the attacks?
BRIG.GEN. NOBLE: OK. The first question on the profile, one of our measures or — and we’ve put a high priority on it — is to conduct a detailed analysis of every attack and the background of the shooter. And one of the problems that we have is most of the shooters are killed in the attacks or escape, over half. But that doesn’t stop you still digging into their background using multiple means and actually interviewing the ones that we detain.
The way I describe it is a bit like watching for suicide, so you can watch — there’s a set profile for certain characteristics of a person who may be in danger of causing self-harm. We’re sort of looking hard at all the shooter profiles and seeing if we can identify certain traits or characteristics that can serve as warnings to the troops so they can be clued on to a potential risk.
So without going into all the aspects of the profile, because I don’t want to reveal all of it — and it’s a work in progress, it’s not going to get on a television show or be a police standard profile yet — the types of things are how long the person has been in the Afghan national security forces, what they’ve been doing immediately prior to the attack, have they been in the unit or they’ve been away, where are they from, what — are they having any personal or administrative problems, what’s their personal demeanor and conduct like?
So we’re working on that so that both the ANSF and coalition forces can have a system when they’re looking day to day out in the field as to where a threat might be coming from. So we’re going to keep doing that, and we’re doing it hand in hand with the Afghans, and we need them, because they have the cultural understanding and the detailed understanding of their own society which helps us get an insight into that type of thing.
Second thing is on Bastion, the attack on Bastion is still under investigation. There’s — one of the questions the investigation is going to answer is whether there was any inside assistance in allowing the assault force to bridge the perimeter and conduct the attack. At present, it’s still going, and I have no indication either way whether there was an insider support or not.
QUESTION: Dave Martin, with CBS News. Short — I guess a couple weeks ago, General Allen said that 10 percent of the insider attacks were the work of Taliban infiltrators and that if you included attacks in which the Taliban assisted the person after the attack, it went up to 25 percent. A lot of people are skeptical of that number, including the former ambassador, Ryan Crocker, because it seems like it has become a deliberate tactic of the Taliban.
So are those still the numbers, 10 percent Taliban infiltrators, 25 percent if you count Taliban assistance after the fact?
BRIG.GEN. NOBLE: I guess General Allen’s figures come from looking at all the attacks from 2007 through ’til today, and it’s a rough percentage of 25 percent insurgent-linked or is an insurgent action. One of the principal problems with numbers and an assessment of motivation is that 53 percent of the attackers we can’t — we don’t know what caused their motivation, because we have no access to them, because they’re dead or they’re not in our custody. So to a certain extent, all numbers will be subject to that question mark.
What we’ve seen is, inside that 25 percent, there are different levels of confidence in exactly what the motivation was for the individual. And in some cases, they’re just links to the insurgency. We’ve got no actual proof that links to the insurgency was the motivation for the attack.
What we’ve done is sat down with the Afghans and asked them, and they’ve gone through their records of each attack and their understanding of the perpetrators. And they roughly have the same figure.
Now, remember at the beginning I said that was about 2007 until ’09 — over the — until today. So over that period, the number of attacks has basically kept pace proportionally with the growth of the ANSF.
The question mark for us at present is what’s happening now and what’s happened in the last couple of months, because we have had a spike in attacks, and we also have the enemy saying that they’re going to exploit this tactic. Mind you, the enemy claim responsibility for many things that they don’t actually do.
So we’re looking really hard at co-option and infiltration. In 2012, we only have one definite example of infiltration, which we know in one of the 37 attacks was a deliberate plan to infiltrate an attack.
So, by and large, 25 percent rough guide, 23 percent personal motivations and reasons, and that’s looking backwards. So what we need to look forwards, and we’re doing that hard now at the recent ones, is to see whether there’s a growth in infiltration or co-option. And I guess that’s probably the summary of where we’re at now.
QUESTION: General, Spencer Ackerman with Wired. I have some questions about the implementation of this training change. Various descriptions of it have it in response to the “Innocence of Muslims” video, and others have it talking more generally about green-on-blue attacks. It would seem like the “Innocence of Muslims” video protest would subside a lot quicker than the green-on-blue problem. So can you shed any light onto how long you anticipate having to implement this change?
And, relatedly, for the troops who have to — at, you know, company and platoon level out of FOBs live co-located with the ANSF, what’s going to be the impact of this change on how they operate day to day? Isn’t there the danger of having trust eroded if, all of a sudden, patrols and that sort of operations have to be approved by higher headquarters?
BRIG.GEN. NOBLE: OK, I think — I’ll answer in a couple of ways. The first thing is that changing the way you do business, how, when and what you do on a daily basis, is just normal military business and common sense. And we do that all the time. It’s just not necessarily — you don’t notice.
What we’ve got is two separate issues. One is “Innocence of Muslims,” so short-term incident that is creating heightened tensions. Next to that you’ve got what is actually a long-term enemy tactic, which is the insider threat method, so it’s an enemy tactic, but it’s also an enduring threat to our soldiers, whether it’s related to the enemy or not.
So what’s happened is, we’re not stupid. We can learn from previous experience. And we remember well back what happened in February with the mishandling of the Koran and the burning of the Koran, et cetera, and the response from the local population. And part of that was an increase in insider threat.
So the two are linked in that manner. So what General Allen’s done is, I think, pretty sensible. He said — and that’s his job — is he’s raised the force protection level – trying to reduce our profile, be sensible over this period of heightened tension, and then ongoing review that day by day by day. So just because we changed the force protection limits up doesn’t mean we can’t change them down, and we’ve done that many times. Heck, we’ve done this quite a few times previously.
Your question about we’re taking everyone off the COPs and away from platoons and companies, et cetera. They can still do that. It’s just the authority to make that decision rests at a higher level. So the regional command commanders can direct that to happen. And they will and do so when they think it’s safe and appropriate.
One of the keys to the insider threat and why the enemy likes it is because the whole purpose is to erode trust. And we — I can tell you right now that we understand that, and so do the soldiers.
I was in Uruzgan the other day. I spoke to the blokes who were — the Australians who were killed in late August — the day after they were killed, on the COP where they were killed. And they were pretty unhappy. And — but the one they clearly understood, because they’re professional soldiers — and that’s the great benefit of our Western professional armies — they get it, too.
So they know what the enemy’s trying to do. They live and breathe with Afghans, and they know that most of the Afghans they’re with think that sort of conduct’s abhorrent, as well.
So the enemy’s got a tough task in actually driving a wedge between us, because we know what the people that do this are trying to do, and we will stand firmly against it.
So I don’t think in the long term you’re going to see an erosion. What you see, though, is increased wariness. All our soldiers are really, really careful now. And we have a range of measures, which you probably know about, like the guardian angel, just to watch and be careful. I do it myself. I spend most days talking to Afghans. And I trust the ones I speak to, but I always take a weapon, and we make sure we have somebody watching what’s happening.
So I don’t think it’s going to smash the trust bond in the theater between us and them. And I don’t think it — the temporary measures in the — what I think’s a pretty prudent response to a heightened period of threat is going to change or damage the model that we’ve adopted for the campaign. In fact, it’s just plain common dog, we would say.
QUESTION: Barbara Starr from CNN. Understanding everything you just said, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says that the insider attacks, in his words, are the last gasp of the Taliban, while at the same time General Dempsey says, in his words, you can’t whitewash it, something has to change. It seems like we’re getting conflicting signals about all of this.
What really is the bottom line at ISAF? Is this the last gasp of the Taliban? Do you — do you agree with that? And everything you’ve described, is it possible it’s a symptom of a deeper issue within the Afghan military structure that needs to be resolved for their forces to trust their own commanders to look after them?
BRIG.GEN. NOBLE: OK. First thing is, the U.S. secretary of defense and chairman outrank me, so I’ve got to be very careful what I say. And if you want to know what they think, I think you should ask them.
But I’ll give you what we think about this threat in here, and maybe they’re both right. So it is a last gasp — there was an article in the Washington Post today, and it talked about the insurgents and their capacity to understand that war is political and how they’re using the media and information and attacks to sell their message and undermine our resolve. That’s both in the coalition and in Afghanistan.
I don’t think that’s particularly profound. That’s Counterinsurgency 101. And so the problem with the insider attacks is it strikes right at the heart of our resolve. And it is one thing to be killed in action fighting the insurgents, quite another to be shot in the back of the head at night by your friends. And I’ve seen that myself in Australia. The most — the most sort of emotional response to death in Afghanistan has been around the insider threat.
So, yeah, it makes sense from the insurgent perspective to try and do that, drive a wedge between us and the Afghans, both outside the theater and inside the theater. Is it a last gasp? And this is where I’d come back to that Washington Post article. I’ve got a funny feeling that if they could get into pickup trucks and drive into Kandahar, they would, but they can’t do that. And the surge helped do that.
So it’s now not just a coalition standing in the way of them, but an ANSF of about 350,000 who say, “You can’t do that. You can’t come back.” And most of the people of Afghanistan don’t want them back, either.
So what do you do when you’re an insurgent in another country and you’re too fearful to come back and you can’t come back? You resort to extreme tactics. So now 81 percent of civilian casualties in this country are caused by the insurgents, using IEDs, assassination, and an endless stream of mass casualty attacks against civilians, whether it be the recent wedding bomb in Samangan, the Metun bombing in Khost, or when I first got here last year, the shura bombing in Kabul, which I think killed up to 80 people.
So, yeah, if you’ve — if your only option is to erode confidence and will through extremism and violence, an insider threat methodology fits right into that box of things to do.
So that’s where I think they are at. They don’t have a lot of options other than to do that. And you probably — the bad news is — probably expect they’ll probably try to do that. The good news is that every day that goes by the Afghans are better positioned to actually be able to halt it and manage it themselves.
It’s a pretty tough thing to stop, someone who’s willing to drive a suicide car into you or attack a base, and has no interest in surviving the attack.
The second point was about, I think, about the Afghan national security forces and what they need to. Yeah, we think one of the fundamental reasons and one of the focuses between now and ’14 is the robust functioning of the institutions of the security force.
So things like pay, personnel, promotion, leave, rest, training, all of those things need to be in place to support a professional army.
Now they’ve grown an army and a police force really rapidly, and part of the cost to that is perhaps they haven’t done the vetting of individuals as well as anybody would have liked, and it’s Afghanistan. Nobody’s got a Social Security number here — no one’s got a driver’s license. Knowing who people are is a difficult issue.
So there’s a lot of work to be done, and the Afghans understand it. And actually one of my jobs is sitting with them, working on how they’re going to go back, tighten up vetting, tighten up checking. And then what we do here at ISAF is try and help them with those institutional, long-term fixes that make these institutions like the army robust and resilient.
Because after 2014 the insurgency doesn’t look like it’s going to go away, it’ll probably still pursue the same tactics that it’s doing now, and the Afghans need to be able to handle that and weather the storm.
So they’ve got the pieces, they’ve got the equipment, they’ve got the people. They just need a really robust system and they’re working every day with us to try and develop that, to try and strengthen that.
And we think if you do that you’ll also cut back on the insider threat attacks, both against them and us, because it’s a problem that plagues them. Up until most — most years they’ve had far more attacks than we do, and they’re just the ones that we know about.
So they need to grip the problem as well. They understand that. And if we do it together, we’ll do it quicker and better.
QUESTION: General, Tom Bowman with NPR.
I want to ask you again about these profiles of the shooters in the green-on-blue attacks. Is there anything you can share with us, anything you’ve learned, any common themes that jump out at you?
And when I was over there in May there was a particular concern about Afghan soldiers and police going on leave, that when they go on leave they could either be radicalized by the Taliban or forced by the Taliban to kill allied soldiers. If you could address that in particular.
BRIG. GEN. NOBLE: Yeah, I don’t want to go through all the elements of the profile for the obvious reason that it’ll let people know what the profile is, what all the elements are. We don’t want to do.
Leave is an issue, and it’s — as is AWOL, so absence without leave. So time spent away from a unit and then returning.
What the Afghans will tell you is that, unlike us, all their families live in Afghanistan. So they’re concerned about the safety of their families and pressure that could be put on families, et cetera, that may induce individuals to conduct an insider attack.
So that’s part of the things that we’re looking at, trying to track and understand pressure. And probably the fundamental fix for that is simple to say, harder to do, which is good leadership and understanding your soldiers. So particularly right down at the small unit level.
So who are they, where are they from, what are their problems, are they getting paid, where their family lives, is everything OK. We do that for our soldiers, believe it or not, and they need to do it for their soldiers.
So they — they’re focused on that issue, and then holding people to account to try and understand and detect those problems early.
What we would rather do is make sure they’re all well looked after and that those problems are detected and stopped, turned around and fixed.
The other side of the coin is having constant vigilance to watch for those sorts of indicators to detect that problem early. And there’s another side of the coin, which is actually counterintelligence and carefully monitoring who’s moving where and when, et cetera.
So it is a whole suite of things that come together to try and detect a problem early. And – as you — leave is an issue, and people returning from leave is an issue, and there are a number of proposals we’re talking to the Afghans about, about how they might be able to deal with soldiers coming back and make sure that when they get back to their unit their head’s on straight, they’re leaning forward and they know what they’re doing.
QUESTION: Quickly. You said leave is an issue. How many — or are many of these attacks occurring with soldiers and police either AWOL or coming back from leave? Could you at least address that?
BRIG.GEN. NOBLE: Yeah, I don’t have the figures on exactly what percentage is leave related. I just know leave has been an issue in a number of attacks.
CDR Speaks: Michael?
QUESTION: General, Mike Evans from the Times, London Times.
Rightly or wrongly, fairly or unfairly, the impression perhaps back here or outside Afghanistan is that this decision by General Allen to change the joint patrols, it strikes at the very heart of what ISAF is doing and trying to do over the next years to hand over to the Afghans, and that it’s — you’ve already talked about trust — but that it really does strike at it.
Are we making too much of this, or is this — you said that this was a sort of a sensible thing to do, but the impression is that it’s fundamental to this whole campaign, that if you can’t trust the guys. And part of the, you know, the other 60, 70 percent of the insider attacks are due to cultural differences, personal problems, whatever, and are not — not insurgent related.
So that also is an element of perhaps what seems to be mistrust between the Afghans and ISAF.
And if I could ask just one question about Camp Bastion. Is there any indication yet how it was possible for 15 Taliban, even albeit dressed in American uniforms, could have approached Camp Bastion, which, as we all know, is in the middle of nowhere, in the desert, how it’s possible that they could have approached it without being spotted?
BRIG.GEN. NOBLE: OK. So rightly or wrongly, I think you’re making too much of it. The — General Allen has not said that we’re never going to speak to an Afghan below kandak level again. And that is not what’s happening.
What he’s done is, as the commander, due to the heightened threat around the “Innocence of Muslims” video, which you would have to admit has had an impact globally, and the track record in Afghanistan of response to things that are perceived as anti-Islamic emanating from the West or from the theater, you’d be crazy not to heighten force protection.
So I think that’s logical. He’s also not preventing partnership patrols below kandak level. He’s just reinforcing the requirement to make a considered decision about when, where and how that happens. And he reserves the right, of course, to change that policy in response to what’s happening.
So, as I said, partnership business happens from the very lowest level to the top level. I don’t know if you remember, but during the incidents in February we actually pulled out all the advisers from the ministries here for over a month and — because of the threat of insider threat. Two of our blokes were shot — actually Americans — were shot in the Ministry of the Interior.
So we were out for a month and we went back. And actually what we’ve found is distance makes the heart grow fonder, because some of those relationships we realize we need to talk to each other, it’s absolutely fundamental.
So I think from my lonely position as the ops officer, it’s prudent and sensible to make the decisions that General Allen’s made. And in fact we did it automatically. We started the write the order straight away, before he told us to, and then he had the discussion with all his commanders about what’s the best response. That’s his job. That’s his prerogative. And it seems to make sense to me.
The Afghans understand it, too, and we’ve talked to them, all the senior ones, about how we’d mitigate the threat. What can we do to help make sure that violence doesn’t explode across the country? And one of the things we’ve learned is keep a low profile, particularly in periods of tension.
So I think it’s sensible. There’s no change to the security force assistance model. There’s no change to how the campaign will progress. And when we need to do mission-essential things, we do mission-essential things. So I wouldn’t — I think my personal opinion is, it’s probably — in fact, we’ve been surprised by the response, because it is sort of prudent military business.
As for Bastion, what’s clear about the attack — and, honest to God, I haven’t read any of the investigation or — because it’s not done yet. I’ve only read the initial reports, et cetera. It’s pretty clear that it was well planned. It’s pretty clear that reconnaissance was done prior to. And like any good attack, it’s selected an approach, looking for a weakness or a vulnerability in a particular position, and it’s exploited those things. What we don’t exactly know until we get the investigation is, you know, exactly how that happened and where the vulnerability was and what the weakness was.
What we’ve done, though — and, again, we do this all the time — but after an attack like that, it causes you to go — look real hard at all of your bases, all of your force protection measures, across the whole country, because the enemy attack our tactical infrastructure quite a lot and very rarely are successful. This is more successful than normal. And we’re going to take all the lessons out of this and check around the whole country to make sure that there can’t be a repeat or minimize the chance for repeat.
So that doesn’t answer your question. That’s because I don’t know any answer to your question.
QUESTION: Hi, General. Jon Harper with the Asahi Shimbun. Have any of the guardian angels actually thwarted an insider attack before casualties were incurred? Or have they merely served as a response force, you know, shooting the guys who have already carried out attacks?
BRIG.GEN. NOBLE: I just missed the beginning of that. What was the first part? Who —
QUESTION: Have any of the guardian angel actually thwarted an insider attack before any casualties were incurred? Or have they merely served as a response force, shooting the guys who have carried out attacks after the attacks have already occurred?
BRIG.GEN. NOBLE: The answer to your question is I would almost — absolutely certain they’ve thwarted attacks. You don’t necessarily know, though, because in the — again, in the case of the Australians, for example, the actual shooter did a reconnaissance. He walked around a number of times, watched their night routine, tried to see what was happening. He actually watched the guardian angel and watched where he was standing and picked a position away from that.
So the answer is, has mid-attack a guardian angel shot someone prior to causing casualty? I’m not sure that’s happened. I don’t think that’s happened. Have guardian angels responded immediately and killed the attacker before he can cause any more casualties? Yes, on a number of occasions. Have they deterred an attack? I think almost certainly, and because — of the way it’s done. That’s the purpose, deter the attack.
And there are other — the Afghans have been pretty successful, particularly lately in — they pick up guys who are potential risks before they become an attack into a position where I think they could probably do an attack, so they’ve had a bit of success with that lately.
So it’d be a bit hard to measure the true effectiveness of guardian angels because of their deterrence value, but they certainly limit the damage when an attack starts, generally speaking. Sometimes they’re actually victims in the attack, though.
QUESTION: General, hi. This is Andrew Tilghman, Military Times. I’d like to ask you about the impact of General Allen’s restrictions on joint patrols on life and operations inside the wire. In a lot of forward operating bases, you have U.S. and NATO troops and Afghan troops living side-by-side. And I’m wondering if there’s any plans to move people around, fundamental changes to force protection measures on those bases? I mean, you know, how do you — how do you handle situations inside the wire?
BRIG.GEN. NOBLE: One of the changes we’ve made, you know, hasn’t been in response to the recent insider threats actually being from quite a while before, but what you need to look at very closely is the set-up inside bases. So — and it’s often for small technical infrastructure localities, your options are limited.
But we’ve asked — well, sorry, General Allen has directed — that everybody go back and look hard at the set-up inside tactical infrastructure and basing. So are our soldiers and Afghan soldiers positioned in such a way that they can be protected? Can guardian — for example, very simply, can a guardian angel watch our men while — or women — while they’re sleeping or eating, et cetera, et cetera? And not all bases are constructed like that.
So there’s been a pretty heavy emphasis on going back and looking hard at the actual conditions on the ground and making sure that we’re the right place, we’ve got the right security, so have the Afghans, how are weapons managed, how are weapons handed out, how does the guard system work, et cetera, et cetera.
So — but that happens all the time, but I think the recent attacks, plus the tension and plus the specific orders from General Allen to go back and do it yet again, is just making us do that.
And, generally, the thing to understand is you’re doing it with the Afghans. You’re not doing it quietly in the corner, et cetera. It’s done hand in glove. So you go around and look at how the place is set up, who’s on picket, who’s doing what, et cetera.
As I said, the vast majority of Afghan soldiers and policemen are loyal, hardworking, committed, and they give their lives on a regular basis for Afghanistan. And most of them we get on well with.
Your next point, I think you talked about culture. And there’s definitely cultural interaction problems. And you wouldn’t — of course, you’re going to expect that. We come from the West. A lot of our soldiers are young. Many of them come here for the first time. They’re coming out of Western culture straight into what is a pretty different culture. And I’ve been to Iraq and around the world a bit, East Timor, and this is probably as different as it gets.
So one of the key things has been, what can we do? Because we all do cultural awareness training. Can we do more? And we’re trying to — on the coalition side — and I know the U.S. system — U.S. Army is actually turning itself inside out to do everything it possibly can to prepare soldiers before they get here, on all the lessons learned.
And it’s pretty simple things, like swearing. Western soldiers swear. Australian soldiers never swear. Oh, they might swear a bit, but Western soldiers swear. And the words the use when literally translated can be extremely offensive to someone who thinks that it’s a personally directed insult.
So that’s a very simple example. We’ve got to tell our blokes stop swearing. And we’ve got to tell the Afghans that, when we swear, don’t take it personally. It might — in the Australian case, it’s probably a term of endearment.
So we’ve talked long and hard with the Afghans about it. So, actually, even the president was briefed on it, and he has agreed to give religious and cultural affairs officers to support ISAF pre-deployment training, to come in as an Afghan on the ground and tell us about the dos and don’ts and to reinforce some of this messaging.
And we’re also trying to push it back into the Afghan system, so that Afghans — they need to understand us, and actually I think General Allen, he’s a pretty smart guy. He — the way he describes it is, you know, we’ve got to be excellent guests in this country. To be a good guest, you have to do what’s done in the home that you’re in. But also, he calls on the Afghans to be good hosts. So they have to understand their guests and try and steer us in the right direction.
So it’s a big challenge, because you live cheek and jowl for a year with each other. You get to see what each other are really like. But we’ve got to do everything we possibly can, and that’s our plan, to at least inform the soldiers on both sides what the dos and don’ts are and what the red lines are.
QUESTION: General, Jim Miklaszewski of NBC News. You talked earlier about the increased wariness on the part of ISAF forces. And you yourself mentioned that you’ve become increasingly wary in terms of mingling with some of the Afghan forces. So in a sense, haven’t the attackers — whatever their motive — already succeeded in some respect in driving a wedge between the Afghans and the ISAF forces?
BRIG.GEN. NOBLE: Well, the way I’d answer that is, you know, we’re all professional soldiers. We’re going to keep fighting here until hell freezes over. So, I mean, I still — I trust the people I deal with. I’m just careful. And that’s only sensible.
So, I mean, on a practical level, really, it’s not going to change the campaign of what’s happened here. Probably the bigger impact is back where you are and the perception at home about, what does it mean when your friends are shooting you?
So that’s a risk at the strategic level. But here on the ground, we’re going to keep doing what we do. And we’re going to be really careful about it, because that’s sensible, and we’ve learned that you can’t necessarily see the attack coming.
So, yeah, we’re more wary. Yes, there’s more care, definitely true. Down on a FOB, and if you’ve been the victim of one of these attacks, you’re certainly going to be more wary and your trust is going to be harder to — to be gained, but they’re not going to stop doing what they’re doing. The soldiers will keep going and the Marines and the airmen and all of us.
So I don’t think it, in a real sense, threatens the campaign execution inside Afghanistan, as it is now. But it is definitely — it does have an effect. It’s a negative effect. And it does stretch right back to home, where obviously, you know, the victims — the families of victims of insider attacks are going to live with it forever and is extremely difficult to understand why you’re being shot by those you’ve been sent to help.
So hopefully that gives an insight. I don’t think it’s a simple yes-no.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up on what you said at the very beginning in your opening remarks. You had talked about the pending recovery of the surge forces. What’s pending? How many more have to come out? And how soon will that be?
BRIG.GEN. NOBLE: The U.S. surge recovery — here’s what I’ll tell you. Not many more. Pretty soon, like in the next couple of weeks. The Americans watch their numbers down the last individual human. And they’re on track to be out in accordance with the end date of 1 October.
So what happens — while I can’t tell you — I wouldn’t tell you, anyway, probably the exact numbers, but — because I don’t want people to know that, and I don’t know them as of today — they’re very dependent on strategic lift, weather, and they change daily by sort of hundreds, if you know what I mean. But the actual glide path down has them out and the surge back on time by 1 October. So you’re effectively very, very close.
QUESTION: So, essentially, say the surge is over?
BRIG.GEN. NOBLE: Yeah, I’m not going to say that, because I’m an Australian one-star at headquarters ISAF. But I’ll say what I just said, which is it’s pretty close. It’s on track. And that’s the U.S. surge recovery of forces.
QUESTION: Sir, it’s Mike Mount with CNN.
I just want to go back to something you were saying regarding the Guardian Angels. You had said that there have been cases where they have killed the attackers before anyone else was killed.
And I just wanted to see if you could quantify that in terms of if you have any statistics on how many cases have happened there, and have those been reported out publicly? Are those part of the overall stats that we get when we — we ask, you know, how many green-on-blue attacks have happened in X amount of time?
BRIG.GEN. NOBLE: Yeah, I’d have to go back and check exactly how many times the Guardian Angels fired and prevented further instances — further injury to our soldiers. I know one happened just recently where an American officer was killed and the Guardian Angel fired and killed the shooter immediately following.
So I would be guessing if I gave you a response statistically. We might got to do that off-line. We’d have to actually go back through every one and check. We’re actually doing that at present.
I think the important thing — one of the important things they’re doing is each insider threat has now a joint casualty assessment team. What that means is we go with the Afghans to the actual incident and we go through it in great detail and prepare a joint — do a joint investigation. Then we share the data between us and them about who the shooter is and the circumstances of the particular attack.
So that’s probably the best answer I can give you off the cuff sitting here in this chair.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?
Let me just make sure I’m clear, though. You did say that there have been cases where Guardian Angels have thwarted an incident before anybody was killed, though. Correct?
BRIG.GEN. NOBLE: No, I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that. We’re pretty sure that their deterrence value is high. We are not aware of an instance where we’ve shot someone in the middle of an attack, before they’ve hurt anybody. But I’d have to check that.
I know plenty of times they’ve fired during the attack. And on a number of occasions, they’ve killed the shooter or injured the shooter and helped end the attack, if you know what I mean. But I cannot say with certainty, I’d have to check, that one’s ever fired before anybody’s been injured.
And when you think about it, that sort of makes sense, because a lot of the attacks are at short range. They’re conducted rapidly. They’re — or they’re conducted in the dark and they’re unexpected.
CDR SPEAKS: Sir, we’ll turn it back over to you for any final remarks.
BRIG.GEN. NOBLE: Yeah, look, I’ve really got nothing more to add. I’d just say that one of the things about ISAF is that we try and look forwards and backwards in context, and try and keep the day-to-day activities in perspective. And that overall, we think we’re pretty much on track for the 2014. Being Afghanistan, every day throws up a different challenge, and the enemy is nothing if not innovative and committed.
So when we get hit with the insider threat problem, or any new tactics, we’ll leave no stone unturned to try and keep our people safe, and we’re not going to shy away from our commitment to be successful in the campaign.
CDR SPEAKS: Thank you for your time this evening, sir.
BRIG.GEN. NOBLE: OK. Thanks, mate.
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