Imagine for a moment that almost once a week for the last six months somebody somewhere in this country had burst, well-armed, into a movie theater showing a superhero film and fired into the audience. That would get your attention, wouldn't it? James Holmes times 21? It would dominate the news. We would certainly be consulting experts, trying to make sense of the pattern, groping for explanations. And what if the same thing had also happened almost once every two weeks in 2011? Imagine the shock, imagine the reaction here.
Well, the equivalent has happened in Afghanistan (minus, of course, the superhero movies). It even has a name: green-on-blue violence. In 2012 - and twice last week - Afghan soldiers, policemen, or security guards, largely in units being trained or
mentored by the US or its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), have turned their guns on those mentors, the people who are funding, supporting, and teaching them, and pulled the trigger.
It's already happened at least 21 times in this half-year, resulting in 30 American and European deaths, a 50% jump from 2011, when similar acts occurred at least 21 times with 35 coalition deaths. (The "at least" is there because, in May, the Associated Press reported that, while US and NATO spokespeople were releasing the news of deaths from such acts, green-on-blue incidents that resulted in no fatalities, even if there were wounded, were sometimes not reported at all.)
Take July. There have already been at least four such attacks. The first, on July 1, reportedly involved a member of the Afghan National Civil Order Police, a specially trained outfit, shooting down three British soldiers at a checkpoint in Helmand Province, deep in the Taliban heartland of the country. The shooter was captured.