US Army Sgt. Alejandro Villalobos (L) gestures as he instructs Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers on welding techniques at Camp Hero in Kandahar Province on September 10, 2012. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
A newly proposed Army handbook seeks to address U.S. soldiers' "ignorance of, or lack of empathy for, Muslim and/or Afghan cultural norms" to combat the recent spike in deadly attacks by Afghan soldiers against coalition forces. Because of this ignorance, the handbook explains, members of the Afghan security force can sometimes react violently, carrying out what are known as "green-on-blue" attacks.
While it has yet to be released, The Wall Street Journal was able to review the "final coordinating draft" of the controversial proposed Army handbook.
The draft handbook provides a list of "taboo conversation topics" that soldiers should not discuss, including "making derogatory comments about the Taliban," "advocating women's rights," "any criticism of pedophilia," "directing any criticism towards Afghans," "mentioning homosexuality and homosexual conduct" or "anything related to Islam." Apparently, censoring U.S. troops will make them more safe.
"Bottom line: Troops may experience social-cultural shock and/or discomfort when interacting with [Afghan security forces]," the handbook states. "Better situational awareness/understanding of Afghan culture will help better prepare [troops] to more effectively partner and to avoid cultural conflict that can lead toward green-on-blue violence."
While it is possible that radical Islam is also listed as a potential reason for insider attacks, The Wall Street Journal's report makes no reference of it. The handbook was reportedly written by the Center for Army Lessons.
In this Monday, Aug. 27, 2012 photo provided by the U.S. Army, U.S. soldiers from the 4th Brigade, 82nd Airborne arrive to a yard where they will turn in their vehicles and equipment as part of drawdown of 23,000 U.S. troops by Sept. 30, 2012 at the Kandahar Air Field south of Kabul, Afghanistan. The U.S. military has started the process of moving out thousands of MRAPS, Humvees and other vehicles as part of the drawdown of 23,000 U.S. troops by the end of September. It is a massive logistical undertaking involving several yards on bases around the country. Credit: AP
Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers stand in formation during a ceremony handing over the Bagram prison to Afghan authorities, at the US airbase in Bagram north of Kabul on September 10, 2012. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
The Wall Street Journal has more details:
The proposed handbook embraces a hotly debated theory that American cultural ignorance has sparked many so-called insider attacks—more than three dozen of which have claimed the lives of some 63 members of the U.S.-led coalition this year. The rise in insider attacks has created one of the biggest threats to American plans to end its major combat missions in Afghanistan next year and transfer full security control to Afghan forces in 2014.
Afghan leaders say Taliban infiltrators are responsible for most insider attacks. U.S. officials say the attacks are largely rooted in personal feuds between Afghan and coalition troops, though not necessarily the result of cultural insensitivity.
Last year, the U.S.-led coalition rejected an internal military study that concluded that cultural insensitivity was in part to blame for insider killings, which it called a growing threat that represented "a severe and rapidly metastasizing malignancy" for the coalition in Afghanistan.
The study was reported last year by The Wall Street Journal. The U.S. military at the time said the study was flawed by "unprofessional rhetoric and sensationalism."
The new handbook pulled information from a 2011 study titled "A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility," which sought to explain why Afghan security forces and American soldiers harbored a "simmering disdain for their counterparts," the WSJ reports.
The 2011 study was headed by Maj. Jeffrey Bordin, who is now serving as the Army center's liaison to Gen. John Allen in Kabul. Using Bordin's conclusions, the new draft Army handbook looks to prepare troops psychologically for serving in Afghanistan.
"We are very serious in trying to solve this problem, so we are not discounting any insights that we think are useful," Gen. David Perkins said. "We are pulling out all the stops to do everything we can to gather lessons learned."
Bordin's 2011 study was based on interviews with 600 members of the Afghan security forces and 200 American soldiers. Some U.S. soldiers said that Afghan forces engage in thievery, are "gutless in combat," are "basically stupid," "profoundly dishonest" and engage in "treasonous collusion and alliances with enemy forces."
Perhaps our soldiers don't need to be cleansed of "ignorance" and told what they can't discuss. Could it be that they are telling the truth and their opinions should be taken into consideration to keep everyone safe overseas?
(H/T: Judicial Watch)
This story has been updated to properly attribute a quote from Gen. David Perkins.