THEY had gone to the aid of an Afghan policeman who was complaining of being in pain from a leg injury.

But as the two soldiers from the Yorkshire Regiment approached to help, the "injured" policeman opened fire on them.

The deaths of Sergeant Gareth Thursby and 18-year-old Private Thomas Wroe just over a week ago have brought the number of UK troops killed in deliberate attacks by Afghan forces to 18.

The same number have been injured over the past five years in such incidents, also known as "green on blue" attacks.

UK troops are not alone in being targeted, with fatalities among the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) totalling 51 from 36 attacks so far this year. And there has been a sharp rise in the number of attacks – 35 soldiers were killed in 21 green on blue attacks in 2011, while the previous year there were six attacks which left 20 dead.

The insider attacks on Isaf troops led Nato to announce last week it would scale back joint operations with Afghan security forces as a "prudent and temporary measure".

The Ministry of Defence says measures had been introduced to prevent such attacks happening, including greater emphasis on vetting new recruits, as well as reassessing troops returning from leave.

However, a spokesman said most did not involve deliberate infiltration by insurgents.

He said: "In most cases when it has been a member of the Afghan forces who has taken action against a member of Isaf, it is a matter of personal disagreement.

"Invariably it is not killing someone because they are British or because they are foreign – it is shooting someone because they have offended them or there has been some kind of row. Afghan society is slightly different – the norms there are rather different to what they are in the UK, in that violence is seen as a much more acceptable way of settling arguments."

Here we examine the fatalities among UK troops as a result of green on blue attacks and ask experts why they are on the rise.

November 3, 2009

Location: Checkpoint Blue 25, in the Nad Ali region of Helmand Province

Number of UK soldiers killed: 5

THE worst green on blue attack to date claimed the lives of five British soldiers after they had been mentoring and living alongside Afghan National Police officers for two weeks. The men had returned from a patrol when a rogue Afghan policeman – named as Gulbuddin – turned his gun on them at a checkpoint. He opened fire from the roof of a building with an AK47 assault rifle and then fled by motorbike. Six other British soldiers and two Afghan policemen were also injured in the attack.

The youngest soldier killed in the attack was Guardsman Jimmy Major, who had been due to turn 19 a few days later, while the oldest was Warrant Officer Class 1 Darren Chant, who was due to become a father for the fourth time and died on the day he was to be told he had won a commission as an officer. Royal Military Police Corporal Nicholas Webster-Smith, 24, Corporal Steven Boote, 22 – a member of the Territorial Army – and father-of-two Sergeant Matthew Telford, 37, also died in the attack.

In May 2011, an inquest into the deaths of the five soldiers recorded verdicts of unlawful killing, but ruled the Government had not failed in its duty to "avoid risk". But the solicitor acting for the families of Sergeant Telford and Guardsman Major said they remained amazed that "several crucial opportunities" were missed to identify Gulbuddin as a threat.

The inquiry heard that concerns had been raised over the behaviour of the gunman, who was called Errol Flynn or Pretty Boy by the British troops because of his moustache and camp behaviour. He was said to have been in a "strop" on the day of the shootings.

July 13, 2010

Location: Patrol base 3 in the Nahr-e Saraj area of Helmand

Number of UK soldiers killed: 3

THEY were soldiers who ate together, lived together and fought together. But in the early hours of the morning, Afghan National Army member Talib Hussein launched an attack on the British servicemen he had been working alongside, which left three members of the Royal Gurkha Rifles dead. The rogue soldier shot Major James Bowman, 34, as he slept in his tent before firing a rocket-propelled grenade into a command centre, which set fire to the room trapping Lieutenant Neal Turkington, 26, and Corporal Arjun Purja Pun, 33, who also died. Four other soldiers were injured in the incident, which saw three minutes of "frenzied shooting", according to reports.

Hussein, an intelligence officer, went on the run and fled to the Taliban after the attack. He later claimed the attack was revenge for the killing of an Afghan civilian by the Isaf in a radio interview. But at an inquest into the soldiers' deaths, which was held in July 2011, Lieutenant Colonel Gerald Strickland said his account was completely untrue.

Strickland said there was no evidence Hussein was a Taliban infiltrator and that Afghan troops had been left "horrified" by the attack.

The inquest in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, ruled the men had been unlawfully killed but concluded that there was no evidence of failure to protect the men. Coroner David Ridley added there had been nothing to suggest Hussein had been a security risk.

July 16, 2011

Location: West of Gereshk in central Helmand Province

Number of UK soldiers killed: 1

LANCE Corporal Paul Watkins was shot by a rogue Afghan soldier while on a routine patrol with Afghan soldiers in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand Province. He was providing cover and support for a foot patrol from a Jackal vehicle, when it came under fire from the Taliban. During the incident he was shot by a man dressed in Afghan army uniform. Four months after his death, it was reported security forces had tracked down the suspected killer, who was suggested to be a Taliban "sleeper agent".

Lance Corporal Watkins, 24, was originally from South Africa and had served in the army for four years, joining the 9th/12th Royal Lancers in 2007. His family – including mother Gill, father Rod and brothers Luke and Simon – said in a statement he had wanted to join the army from a young age and that he "died doing a job he loved".

March 26, 2012

Location: Main entrance to Lashkar Gah Main Operating Base in Helmand Province

Number of UK soldiers killed: 2

SERGEANT Luke Taylor and Lance Corporal Michael Foley – both fathers of young children – were killed after being shot dead at the gate of the British Afghan HQ in Lashkar Gah. The incident happened after an Afghan soldier was refused entry to the base and opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle, before being shot dead himself.

Sergeant Taylor of the Royal Marines, was working with an intelligence unit and had arrived in Afghanistan a month before his death. The 33-year-old, from Bournemouth, was married and had a four-year-old son, Roan. Colleagues paying tribute to him spoke of how he "lived life to the max" and enjoyed learning to BMX with his son at home.

Lance Corporal Foley, of the Adjutant General's Corps, was manning the front gate as part of the guard force when he was shot dead. The 25-year-old – father to three sons Calum, Warren and Jake – was just two weeks from the end of his tour of duty.

Colleague Corporal Craig Thompson paid tribute saying: "He loved his family very much and was very proud of his three boys and wife Sophie.

"He decorated his desk with pictures of his family and called it his 'morale corner'."

May 12, 2012

Location: Near Patrol Base Attal in the Lashkar Gah district

Number of UK soldiers killed: 2

CORPORAL Brent McCarthy and Lance Corporal Lee Davies were part of the police advisory team, tasked with the role of building links with Afghan police. On the day of the attack, they had been deployed to provide security while their commanding officer attended a meeting at a local Afghan police headquarters.

But two Afghan policeman who they had been helping to train – and had reportedly transferred to their unit just weeks before – subsequently turned their guns on them and shot them dead.

One of the "rogue" policeman was shot dead while the other fled. It was reported in September he had been tracked down by US special forces and Afghan troops while trying to join an Afghan police unit in another area. Corporal McCarthy, 25, of the Royal Air Force, was said to be a man of "many talents and diverse interests" including football, playing drums in a band and representing the RAF at hockey.

In July, Charlotte Drew, the partner of Lance Corporal Davies, who was from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, told how she found it difficult to come to terms with such attacks after two other soldiers from the Welsh Guards were killed in a green on blue attack.

She told a local newspaper: "I do feel very angry and find it hard to come to terms with how Lee and the other soldiers died, especially when it came from someone they were meant to trust.

"They're helping them and in return they're losing their lives, which I find really difficult to understand."

July 1, 2012

Location: Checkpoint Kamparack Pul in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand Province

Number of UK soldiers killed: 3

WARRANT Officer Class 2 Leonard Thomas, Guardsman Craig Roderick and Guardsman Apete Tuisovurua, were members of an Afghan police advisory team. They were helping to organise a meeting of elders at Checkpoint Kamparack Pul when they were shot and fatally wounded.

Reports suggested the incident came after an argument with an Afghan policeman, who subsequently opened fire and hit three of the soldiers. He was shot and wounded and subsequently taken into custody.

Warrant Officer Thomas, 44, of the Royal Corps of Signals, was a veteran of the Gulf War who had served in various units since 1990 and was on his final operational tour as a member of the Territorial Army.

Guardsman Roderick, 22, born in Cardiff, was a trainee bricklayer before joining the Welsh Guards in September 2009 and had spent just over three months in Afghanistan before his death. Guardsman Tuisovurua, 28, was originally from Fiji, had joined the Welsh Guards after finishing his training more than a year before he was killed.

September 15, 2012

Location: Checkpoint Tora in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand Province

Number of UK soldiers killed: 2

Father-of-two Sergeant Gareth Thursby and 18-year-old Private Thomas Wroe, both of the 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment, were the victims of the most recent green on blue attack. They had gone to the aid of an Afghan local policeman, who claimed he had hurt his foot, according to reports. But when they went to offer first aid, he opened fire with an assault rifle, shooting and fatally injuring the two men.

Sergeant Thursby, from Skipton, North Yorkshire, was killed just six days before his 30th birthday and is survived by wife, Louise and children Joshua, 10, and Ruby, four. Commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Zachary Stenning revealed how he had told his platoon to call him 'dad' during his tour and on the nights when he was not on patrol, would remain awake until all his men returned safely.

His comrade Private Wroe, from Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, signed up to the army aged just 16 and had only been in Afghanistan for a few months when he was killed. He had been deployed on July 1, a week after his 18th birthday. Paying tribute to his son, his father, Michael said the Army was "all he ever wanted to do".


THE rise in green on blue attacks has raised concerns over increasing infiltration by the Taliban into the Afghan police and army. But military experts say the reason for "insider attacks" is far more complex.

Peter Quentin, research analyst at defence think tank Royal United Service Institute, said the idea that the Taliban have got the upper hand and is turning the coalition forces' partners against them was "too simplistic".

He said: "There is a tendency towards and saying our troops are being overrun by hoardes of ungrateful Afghans who are trying to kick us out – that there is some kind of long-term strategically planned campaign being co-ordinated by the Taliban making it happen. That is not the case."

Quentin, who worked in Afghanistan two years ago in an Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) development role, said the vast majority of attacks were due to a cultural reasons amid a "proud" Afghan culture which places emphasis on seeking retribution.

"Any slight against yourself must be responded to, if it goes unresponded to then it is a slight against yourself and a double slight," he said. "There is definitely that code of justice and seeking revenge for wrongdoings."

But Quentin pointed out that the rise in insider attacks was in line with a dramatic increase in the size of the Afghan security forces and still accounted for a "relatively small" number of attacks.

Dr Rashmi Singh, lecturer in terrorism studies at St Andrews University's Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, said data appeared to indicate that insider attacks were on the rise.

She said this could be seen as a direct response to US President Barack Obama's stated intention to withdraw troops by the end of 2014.

She said: "The question is why exactly there is a rise is unclear – if this is actually Taliban infiltration into the Afghan security forces or if it is individual grievances.

"Or if it is actually a matter of the population realising there is this movement of troops out of Afghanistan and this is a way for individuals to ingratiate themselves back with the Taliban by attacking Nato forces."

Singh said a difficulty for academics trying to analyse the situation was a lack of detailed data.

She added: "Perhaps as troop numbers are made up, the vetting mechanisms that have been in place are tightened and the troops themselves mature, you might see a decline in these sort of attacks.

"But it could go completely the other way. The Taliban is portraying the ANSF units as agents or collaborators with those who are occupying. As the coalition troops withdraw, this is a powder keg just waiting to explode. But which way it goes is pretty unclear."

British military historian Martin Windrow said in Afghanistan the coalition troops will not remain and are trying to instil loyalty to the "unattractive" Kabul government.

Windrow said: "Of course, the local troops or police are turning on us. The golden rule in such situations is – if you must come, you must stay."