Is the Killing of an American General a Sign That Afghanistan Is Going the Way of Iraq? 

The World
How It Works
Aug. 6 2014 2:23 PM

Is Afghanistan Going the Way of Iraq? 

An Afghan National Army soldier searches passengers at a checkpoint near the Marshal Fahim National Defense University, a training complex on the outskirts of Kabul, on Aug. 6, 2014.

Photo by Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images

The killing of Maj. Gen. Harold Greene by an Afghan soldier on Tuesday doesn’t just mark the first killing of a U.S. general in a war zone since Vietnam. It’s also a disturbing example of a problem that coalition forces had seemed to be getting under control: so-called insider, or “green-on-blue,” attacks.

Joshua Keating Joshua Keating

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

In 2012 at least 52 coalition soldiers were killed by purported allies in the Afghan security forces. But perhaps thanks to improved screening and security measures, these attacks have become a lot less common. A Pentagon report issued earlier this summer stated that insider attacks had declined from 48 in 2012 to 15 in 2013 to just two in the first quarter of 2014.


But on Tuesday, in addition to the attack that killed Greene, the New York Times reports that an “Afghan police officer opened fire on American soldiers visiting the governor of Paktia Province.” This comes after a few weeks of alarming security news in Afghanistan, including the worst suicide bombing in the country since 2001, Taliban military gains in areas previously thought to be under government control, and worrying signs that the U.S.-brokered deal reached after the recent disputed presidential election may be unraveling.

Given recent events in Iraq, it’s worth asking whether there’s potential for similar disintegration in Afghanistan. There are some key differences between the situations. Unlike Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, both Afghan presidential candidates—Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah—have pledged to sign an agreement that would keep a limited U.S. troop presence in the country through 2016 to continue to train Afghan security forces. Of course, that’s contingent on one of these men actually getting into office. They’re currently locked in an ongoing dispute over an audit of election results. Continued insider attacks will also make the job of U.S. trainers much harder.

And there’s still a lot of work to be done. Assuming the Taliban threat persists, a recent independent report commissioned by the Pentagon concluded that current U.S. and NATO efforts are woefully inadequate to prepare Afghan forces to maintain the country’s stability after international troops draw down.

In retrospect, it should have been obvious that the Iraqi military—and more importantly, the government behind it—was unprepared to meet a threat on the scale of ISIS. The post-American outlook for Afghanistan doesn’t look a whole lot better at the moment.


Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

View From Chicago

You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney

Or at least trade it for something.

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Terrorism, Immigration, and Ebola Are Combining Into a Supercluster of Anxiety

The Legal Loophole That Allows Microsoft to Seize Assets and Shut Down Companies

  News & Politics
Oct. 19 2014 1:05 PM Dawn Patrol Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s critically important 5 a.m. wake-up call on voting rights.
Business Insider
Oct. 19 2014 11:40 AM Pot-Infused Halloween Candy Is a Worry in Colorado
Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 17 2014 4:23 PM A Former FBI Agent On Why It’s So Hard to Prosecute Gamergate Trolls
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 8:32 AM Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy—and a Mess. Can the Movies Fix It?
Future Tense
Oct. 17 2014 6:05 PM There Is No Better Use For Drones Than Star Wars Reenactments
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 20 2014 7:00 AM Gallery: The Red Planet and the Comet
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.