The death of National Guard Maj. Brent Taylor last week in an insider attack in Afghanistan underlines the continuing danger from dissidents and infiltrators within the Afghan security forces, a problem emphasized in a recent government watchdog report.
The report to Congress by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, issued two days before Taylor's death, warns that the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan faces an overall deterioration of the military and a political situation marked by desertions and turmoil within the ranks of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).
Taylor, 39, the mayor of North Ogden, Utah and an intelligence officer with the Utah Army National Guard, died of wounds from small-arms fire Saturday in Kabul while serving in Operation Freedom's Sentinel, the Pentagon said.
The incident is under investigation, it added, but Maj. Gen. Jeff Burton, commander of Utah's National Guard, said Sunday at a news conference that Taylor and another U.S. soldier who was wounded were shot by a member of the ANDSF. The shooter was ultimately killed by return fire.
Taylor's death is the third this year for a U.S. service member in a so-called "green-on-blue” attack by a member of the ANDSF, but the danger is far greater for Afghan troops from "green-on-green" attacks within the ranks, SIGAR said.
Citing figures from U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, SIGAR said there were 23 reported green-on-green insider attacks against ANDSF personnel from May 17 to Aug. 26, 2018, bringing this year's total to 56.
As a result of those attacks, the ANDSF incurred 42 casualties (28 killed and 14 wounded) that quarter, and sustained a total of 121 casualties (85 killed and 36 wounded) from Jan. 1 to Aug. 26, 2018, SIGAR said.
The report cites a number of "discouraging developments," including the deadly Oct. 18 insider attack in Kandahar at an election security meeting attended by Army Gen. Austin Scott Miller, commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
The Taliban later said Miller was one of the targets, but he was not injured. Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Smiley, who oversees the NATO military advisory mission in southern Afghanistan, was wounded, and Afghan Gens. Abdul Raziq and Abdul Momin were killed.
Since September 2017, the U.S. has classified the exact number of ANDSF troops killed and wounded, but Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, said last month that the number had increased this year from last year.
Last week, in an address to the U.S. Institute of Peace, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis gave a glimpse of the increasing toll for the ANDSF.
"The Afghan lads are doing the fighting. Just look at the casualties -- over 1,000 dead and wounded in August and September, and they stayed in the field fighting," he said.
SIGAR asked NATO's Resolute Support mission to comment on the casualty numbers for Afghan troops. It gave no actual numbers but said in reply, "From the period of May 1 to the most current data as of October 1, 2018, the average number of casualties the ANDSF suffered is the greatest it has ever been," the report said.
The remains of Taylor, a father of seven who had deployed twice before to Iraq and once to Afghanistan, were expected to arrive in Utah on Monday night.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.