On November 5, 2009, Army Major Nidal Hassan walked into the Soldier Readiness Center aboard Fort Hood and opened fire with an FN 5.7mm pistol, killing thirteen fellow Soldiers and wounding 29 more. Even though he was a terrorist and inspired by Al-Qaeda and Imam Anwar al-Awlaki, I don’t want to focus on his ideology in this article. What I care about is how he was able to physically get to the point where he could carry out his attack. Nidal Hassan belonged in that building. He wore the same uniform as everyone else. He had the ID card and all the credentials. He wasn’t posing – he was an insider.
In 2012, our nation’s military faced an alarmingly high number of Green-on-Blue attacks in Afghanistan. The military refers to these attacks as Green on Blue Incidents as “Green” represents the partnered Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), while “Blue” represents the American military. These attacks are mostly occurring on U.S. bases, spots where the military could traditionally let their guard down even just slightly. Nidal Hassan and the ANSF present the same security challenge – how can you effectively establish provide for your own security when the threat wears the same uniform as everyone else?
The problem of Green-on-Blue attacks presents a very complex problem for the military, because the mission in Afghanistan is to train and develop the ANSF so that they can take charge of their own national security. This is a mission that requires well-developed relationships between the soldiers of each country and a high level of trust between mentor and mentee. If the American military treats every Afghan soldier as a potential threat, taking away their ammunition, searching them at checkpoints, and treating them as second-class citizens, these relationships will be destroyed and the mission will fail. On the other hand, the ANSF can’t be treated as harmless, and the military can’t completely let their guard down; that approach would expose our forces to an unacceptable level of risk and would likewise cause the mission to fail. Because the impact of Green on Blue incident strains this relationship and jeopardizes over 11 years of combat, “threats inside the wire” has attracted the attention at the highest levels of the military and government.
The reality is, a behavioral profiling approach is a key component to identifying and stopping these Green-on-Blue attacks from occurring. The reason I don’t want to focus on Nidal Hassan’s ideology is because we have members of our military deployed around the world and partnered with foreign militaries with a wide range of beliefs. The motivation to attack might change depending on the religious, political, or cultural influences in the area, and we need an approach that gets beyond those variables. Regardless of ideology, the behavior of those people approaching our positions with violent intentions and how we will separate them from the civilians they hide amongst are universal and won’t change.
Up until now, I have avoided writing about these types of threats here even though I’ve provided classes on the topic and been interviewed to discuss the uniqueness of this threat. The reason is that this past August, I lost a good friend in a Green-on-Blue Incident, and I wasn’t sure how well I would be able to communicate how the CP Journal or the training that my company provides can help empower Marines and Soldiers to ensure their own safety. This week is going to be dedicated solely to this Green-on-Blue threat, because no Marine or Soldier should be unprepared to take charge of their own safety. The articles in this series will cover a piece of each class in the “Threats Inside The Wire” course that my company offers. Once again, I believe that no Marine or Soldier should be prevented from learning how to recognize these threats that have such a high impact on their safety and I believe that nonverbal cues can be the first step into allowing them to take their safety into their own hands.
(This series of posts has been edited and expanded upon in the ebook)