Step one of a rebranding campaign starts with redefinition. Step two continues with "admission" and "fact-correcting."
Following previous NATO and ISAF statements that Taliban infiltration accounts for 11% of an estimated 40 "Green on Blue" attacks in 2012, commanding General John Allen has decided to "set the record straight." The Pentagon is tracking each shooting with a set of factors to determine the scope of the Taliban's designs - "pure infiltration," impersonation, coerced the family members - and each carries a value that lowers the total number of direct infiltrations. Previously, NATO concluded that 90% of attacks stemmed from "personal disputes, stress or cultural clashes." Americans and Europeans were evidently wise to doubt such a limited Taliban influence, because Allen admitted that the total is "about 25 percent."
"The number 10 or 25 is a number we're going to continue to hone to get a feel for this, so we really do have a sense of the size and the magnitude of the enemy threat in the ranks of the Afghan national security forces."
Pentagon and EU capitals are clearly growing more concerned with each ambush on U.S. and NATO forces. Beyond the intrinsic loss of life, trust gaps between Afghan and Western forces could imperil NATO's "Afghanization" if the problem isn't remedied before 2014. Yet Allen and his superiors are no less concerned about the public reaction to "Green on Blue," which viscerally projects Afghanistan's dilemmas in a collective explosion, and the premature loss of NATO contributors. Digging to the bottom of the Taliban's infiltration thus shields coalition troops from danger and foreign audiences from Afghanistan's ongoing stalemate. One White House official recently told The New York Times, "The public reactions you’re seeing from us and the palace are indicative of just how concerning this is to all of us."
For its part, NATO later clarified that "Allen's data and the 11 percent figure did not contradict each other." The imminent question: what's to stop the real number from being even higher?
Kabul, on the other hand, appears to have reached a different conclusion. Speaking after a "special meeting" of President Hamid Karzai's security advisers, spokesman Aimal Faizi told reporters that the "main culprits in the killings had been put in place by intelligence services from neighboring countries." Faizi abstained from naming Pakistan and Iran as the culprits, but he cited interrogations and cell phone records as evidence of foreign collision.
“The investigation done so far shows there is infiltration by foreign spy agencies,” Mr. Faizi said. “There is no doubt there is infiltration.”
One can understand why Karzai's government decided to issue these accusations. Blaming foreign actors pushes the responsibility of "Green on Blue" away from Kabul at a time when the American people, politicians and generals are all demanding that the government "do more." Simply turn to Pakistan, where "do more" is a registered U.S. trademark, and repeat after Washington. By raising the caliber of infiltration from insurgent to state-sponsored, his officials can both diminish the Taliban's image and argue that Kabul is facing a more complicated threat than previously anticipated. Of course, the government must admit that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has infiltrated in place of Mullah Omar's men.
Interestingly, the NYT reports that ”Western officials here [Kabul], and American officials at the Pentagon, were surprised by the government’s assertions.” The spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff's Gen. Martin E. Dempsey would speak briefly about Tuesday's conference call for Karzai, saying, “We certainly don’t see this as the one [reason].” More disturbingly, Colonel David A. Lapan said that NATO doesn't “know what’s causing them, and we’re looking at everything.” How, then, does the Pentagon know that the Taliban aren't responsible for the majority of attacks?
Either Washington and Kabul are coordinating deceptive propaganda, or else the capitals are experiencing substantial disarray within their PR response to "Green on Blue."