Get the latest military news and headlines delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.
The grief-stricken father of a slain Marine lashed out at the U.S. training policies with the Afghan National Security Forces. His son’s death became one of many recent insider attacks leading to high-level meetings between U.S. and Afghan leader to re-evaluate their training methods.
“At the end of the day, what happened is my son trained somebody to murder him,” Greg Buckley Sr. said at the funeral Saturday for Lance Cpl. Gregory T. Buckley, 21, of Oceanside, N.Y., according to a CBS report.
The Afghan recruits “come in, they say, ‘We want to be police officers,’ and we hand them a blue uniform and hand them an AK-47? That’s insane,” the father told CBS as he stood surrounded by family and friends wearing buttons with a picture of his fallen son in uniform.
“If my son died on the battlefield, I would’ve been -- maybe been -- able to accept that, but instead they killed him inside the gym,” said Buckley Sr., according to CBS.
Buckley; Staff Sgt. Scott E. Dickinson, 29, of San Diego, Calif.; and Cpl. Richard A. Rivera Jr., 20 of Ventura, Calif., were shot to death on Aug. 10 while they worked out at a base gym in the southwestern Helmand province. The assailant allegedly was an unvetted 15-year-old “tea boy” who was the personal aide to the local Afghan district police chief, the Washington Post reported.
The grief and anger of Buckley’s father reflected the opinions of most Americans. Numerous recent polls have shown that a majority believe the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting.
While services were held for the young Marine in Long Island, N.Y., Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called Afghan President Hamid Karzai to curb the growing incidents of “insider attacks” by Afghans wearing uniforms that have killed at least 109 coalition troops since 2007 -- 39 since January, including 25 Americans.
Another Afghan dressed in a police uniform shot and killed a NATO soldier Sunday in southern Afghanistan. It wasn’t immediately known what country the NATO soldier was from. And an Afghan police recruit killed two U.S. Special Forces trainers Aug. 17.
Panetta thanked Karzai for “condemning the attacks and the two “expressed shared concern over this issue,” said George Little, the chief Pentagon spokesman.
To counter the insider threat, Panetta and Karzai discussed measures that have already been put in place or are in the planning stage. The two called for “augmented counter-intelligence measures, even more rigorous vetting of Afghan recruits, and stepped up engagement with village elders, who often play a key role by vouching for Afghan security personnel,” Little said.
Marine Gen. John Allen, the overall Afghan commander and head of the International Security Assistance Force, has also ordered all U.S. troops in Afghanistan to carry loaded weapons with them at all times.
Buckley and the two other slain Marines were members of Kilo Co., 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, which had not taken any casualties before the Aug. 10 incident in the gym. On that same day in Helmand province, three other Special Operations Marines were killed by an Afghan wearing a police uniform in a separate incident.
Capt. Matthew P. Manoukian, 29, of Los Altos Hills, Calif.; Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Jeschke, 31, of Herndon, Va.; and Staff Sgt. Sky R. Mote, 27, of El Dorado, Calif., were shot to death by an Afghan police officer with whom they had just shared a meal.
In yet another incident, U.S. military officials strongly suspect that the Afghan police recruit who killed two Special Forces trainers with a weapon just handed to him was a Taliban plant and part of a growing threat from enemy infiltrators.
The U.S. and NATO have begun a major review of the vetting process for Afghan recruits for the police and the army to include checking on the identities and loyalties of village elders and Afghan officials who are required to vouch for the trainees, the officials said.
Until recently, Pentagon and NATO officials had routinely dismissed Taliban claims to have infiltrated the ranks of the Afghan National Security Forces as idle boasts, but the recent spike in “green on blue,” or “insider,” attacks has forced commanders to rethink policy.
“We think it’s about 10 percent,” a Pentagon official said of the percentage of deadly insider attacks carried out by Taliban agents or sympathizers since January 2011.
A total of 50 attacks by Afghans in uniform had occurred in 2011 and 2012 through last Friday and killed 74 coalition troops, the vast majority of them Americans.
The latest insider incident in relatively peaceful Farah province was especially disturbing to the planners of the transition of the security lead to Afghan forces as U.S. and coalition combat troops withdraw by the end of 2014. The withdrawal was dependent on the success of the "partnering" program between U.S. and Afghan forces.
Afghan and NATO officials identified the attacker as Mohammad Ismail, who was being recruited for the Afghan Local Police. The ALP is part of a new initiative funded by the U.S. to serve as a part-time militia force in areas where Western troops were less likely to patrol as they become fewer in number.
Ismail allegedly opened fire and killed the two Special Forces troops as soon as he was handed a weapon. Other Afghan and coalition troops then shot and killed Ismail.
In reviewing the vetting process for recruits, the U.S. and NATO will go back to the standards outlined at Pentagon briefings in May 2011 by top officials of the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan.
Jack Kem, deputy to the commander of the Training Mission, said an eight-step vetting process for recruits had been put in place, including identity card verifications, biometric scans, and a requirement for at least two letters from village elders or Afghan officials from the recruit’s district vouching for the trainee.
The Pentagon official said the review of the vetting process will determine whether standards have been maintained in the vetting process and focus on the vouchers from the village elders to determine whether those individuals actually exist and are trustworthy.
Despite the infiltration of the ranks, the official said the vast majority of insider attacks were the result of stress, emotional problems and “personal vendettas that they’ve decided to solve with a gun."