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Afghan suicide bomb scare highlights concern about 'insider threat'

Reports of suicide bomb vests inside the Afghan Department of Defense were eventually dismissed as false, but they pointed to US concerns about Taliban infiltrators or rogue troops attacking US soldiers or the Afghan government.  

Marine Gen. John Allen, the top US commander in Afghanistan gestures during a news conference at the Pentagon Monday.

Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP

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The reports forced a two-hour lockdown of the Afghan Department of Defense Tuesday: nearly a dozen suicide vests discovered hidden at the Afghan Ministry of Defense and an equal number of Afghan troops arrested for a possible terrorist attack this week.

In the end, Afghan officials deemed the reports false, but they ratcheted up growing concerns about an “insider threat” within Afghan forces. 

To some degree, the risk of Afghan troops turning against foreign troops or their own government is inherent in a counterinsurgency. Insurgents will seek to find ways to disrupt the very force being built to fight them.  

But with US troops apparently mistakenly burning Qurans in February and an American soldier accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians in March, US forces are on high alert for reprisals from members of Afghan security forces – be they Taliban infiltrators or outraged troops. 

US military official say they are looking for ways to mitigate the threat.

“It is prudent for us to recognize that, as you know, revenge is an important dimension in this culture,” Gen. John Allen, the top US commander in Afghanistan, told reporters Monday in a Pentagon briefing. “So we would be prudent ourselves in looking for the potential for that to emerge.” 

Nearly a quarter of the deaths of coalition troops in Afghanistan have been the result of “green on blue” incidents of violence – Afghan security personnel attacking coalition troops. 


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