'Green-On-Blue' Attacks: Can They Be Prevented?

A "green-on-blue" attack occurs when an Afghan soldier turns on U.S. troops. This most recent insider attack was the third such attack this year.

'Green-On-Blue' Attacks: Can They Be Prevented?
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By now, you’ve probably heard the term.

"This shooting is being called a green-on-blue attack." (Via MSNBC

“These attacks referred to as green-on-blue attacks...” (Via Fox News

“These so-called green-on-blue attacks.” (Via NBC

A green-on-blue attack is military speak for when an Afghan soldier or police officer turns his gun on coalition forces. (Via NATO

The colors relate to U.S. military’s color-coding system where blue stands for American forces and green refers to allies. (Via Getty Images

The Pentagon says U.S. Major General Harold Greene was gunned down Tuesday in such an attack. A man wearing an Afghan Army uniform reportedly killed the general and injured 15 others. (Via U.S. Army

This insider attack was far from the first. In fact, it's been a major problem for coalition troops in Afghanistan.  

The Long War Journal, a blog that monitors the global war on terrorism, keeps a running tally on the number of green-on-blue attacks by year. 

They began to increase in 2011 after President Obama announced he was planning on pulling out most U.S. forces. In 2012, the attacks peaked, killing 61 troops. But since then, the number has declined. ​

The Pentagon and military observers say that's partly due to the changes to recruiting and vetting procedures put in place by the U.S. and its partners — including a so-called “guardian angel” program which has U.S. and NATO soldiers monitoring Afghan troops. (Via U.S. Department of Defense

And The Christian Science Monitor reports the Afghan Army now has hundreds of counterintelligence officers on the lookout for “anti-foreigner” sentiment within the troops.

There’s also another more obvious reason for the decline in green-on-blue attacks. (Via Getty Images

Now, there are fewer troops. In June 2011, the U.S. had 101,000 troops in the country — a number that’s dropped to 30,600. (Via U.S. Department of Defense

But the fact that these such attacks are still happening, observers say, shows the system needs work. Tuesday’s attack was the third this year.

More concerning, is the fact that the U.S. is preparing to withdraw combat troops from the country by the end of the year — leaving behind just over 9,000 personnel in more of a support role. (Via Getty Images

A foreign policy expert at the Asian Studies Center told The International Business Times Tuesday's attack raising questions about security for those remaining troops. “The fact that this was an insider attack, a green on blue attack, probably will increase calls for the U.S. to go for the zero troop option in Afghanistan.”

Maj. Gen. Harold Greene was the highest-ranking general killed in combat since Vietnam. He was a 34-year veteran of the army. (Via U.S. Army)