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KPBS Midday Edition

Pendleton Marines Among Those Killed This Week In Afghanistan

Death of Camp Pendleton Marines
Deadly Turn in Afghanistan
Guest: Beth Ford Roth, Home Post, KPBS News

CAVANAUGH: Our top story on Midday Edition is deadly violence in Afghanistan. Since last Friday, six U.S. marines have been killed in attacks, three from Camp Pendleton, and another one of the Marines killed was from San Diego, staff sergeant Scott Dickinson. There have been reports of U.S. troop fatalities in a helicopter crash. At least 40 civilians were killed this week in coordinated attacks in Afghanistan. Beth Ford Roth is KPBS homepost blogger. Welcome to the show. FORD ROTH: Thank you. CAVANAUGH: The attack that claimed the lives of the three Camp Pendleton marines happened last Friday. FORD ROTH: There are conflicting reports about what happened, but it's my understanding that an Afghan wearing a police security uniform who was considered an ally of the three marines who are special ops marines invited them to a predawn meal, being Ramadan, not able to eat during daylight. And then he opened fire and killed all three of them. CAVANAUGH: In is part of what's being called green on blue attack, right? FORD ROTH: Exactly. CAVANAUGH: Is that Afghans always posing as members of the security force? Wasn't there another incident on Friday that was slightly different? FORD ROTH: There was one. And it's not so much posing as but they are actually members of the police force or the security forces. They have been working with these marines and built up some sort of idea of trust. But the other incident on Friday, three other marines who were in a gym working out, and an Afghan police officer came in with an AK-47 and opened fire and basically executed them. So these are men who are supposed to be working with the marines, working with the troops we have over there. That's part of the idea, we're training them so they can take over their own security. And in turn they are turning on our troops. CAVANAUGH: Now just yesterday, Leon Panetta finally acknowledged that the Taliban is behind these green on blue attacks. Why did the defense department resist what seems like an obvious connection? FORD ROTH: Well, things are sort of changing now. We're leaving. We're drawing down and we're supposed to be out by the end of 2014. A cynic might say we've heard this before, that this is the death throes of the insurgency. And we've heard this is the desperation of a rural force, and we've taken them out of the cities, and they're in the rural areas. I'm saying a cynic may say that. But I also -- the Taliban is coming forward and saying we are responsible for this. This is what we've done. So it's hard to contradict what seems to be plain evidence. CAVANAUGH: And the Taliban is taking credit using that term for the shooting down of a helicopter today. Does the Taliban have the capacity to commit those kinds of acts? FORD ROTH: Well, it was almost exactly a year ago, August 6th, 2011, when -- it was the greatest loss of life in a single day in the Afghan war when a Chinook helicopter was shot down by insurgents in Afghanistan, killed 30 U.S. troops, many of whom who were Navy seals, one military working dog, so they do have that kind of capacity. And they are taking credit for -- it was a Blackhawk that was shot down today. The military is saying it's still under investigation. But the Taliban is taking credit for shooting it down. And seven U.S. troops, and I believe four Afghans were killed in that crash. CAVANAUGH: As you described what happened last Friday in the two attacks on the Marines in Afghanistan, it sounds absolutely terrifying because people -- the Marines had been working with the people, knew the attackers, apparently, and then all of a sudden the machine gun comes out, and the people you thought were your allies are now the people who are killing you. What does that do to morale? FORD ROTH: I can only imagine. You have to really request who you can trust, and when your mission is to train these people so they can take over security of their own country when you leave, I would imagine it makes that mission very difficult. Panetta has been saying we should develop this program called the guardian angel program where whenever there is a meeting between NATO troops and our troops are considered part of the NATO forces and Afghans that there is a guardian angel, someone there who is watching everyone's back. That there's never a case like we where it's just our marines and an Afghan security officer, that there's sort of an objective guardian angel there who can protect everyone involved. That's being talked about as a possible I suppose. But I would imagine it's an extremely difficult mission to accomplish when the people you're supposed to be training you don't know if you can trust. CAVANAUGH: It occurs to me, if you listen to the dialogue in the presidential election so far, there's relatively no mention of Afghanistan. The Marines at Camp Pendleton, the families of U.S. troops still know there's a war going on. But do you think the larger American public has kind of forgotten? FORD ROTH: I don't even know if it's on the radar. And it's interesting that there hasn't been a discussion because I -- Barack Obama is calling for us to leave Afghanistan, it's my understanding that Mitt Romney wants pretty much the same thing. So they're not talking about it. But the military families I believe -- that's such a huge issue because they are bearing the brunt of this. They are losing their sons and their daughters and their husbands. They are feeling this every day. Deployments last how many months? Babies are being born that the father isn't there to keep except maybe by Skype. So this is a real day to day pressing issue that they live and breathe. And most Americans who aren't in the military or don't love someone in the military, how does it affect them except maybe the first thing they see when they turn on the TV news at night? CAVANAUGH: And it takes a terribly deadly week like this to make it into the headlines. FORD ROTH: Exactly. CAVANAUGH: I have been speaking with Beth Ford Roth, thank you very much. FORD ROTH: My pleasure.

Three Camp Pendleton Marines were among the casualties this week in Afghanistan. They and three others from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina were killed in what is being called "green-on-blue" attacks, meaning they were gunned down by a member of the Afghan military or police force.

And today, a Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Khandahar Province, killing seven U.S. troops, three Afghan soldiers and one Afghan engineer. The Taliban has claimed responsibility. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta blamed the green-on-blue attacks on the Taliban, which is seeking to de-stabilize the Afghan government. At a Pentagon press briefing today, Panetta noted that since the Taliban has not been able to regain the territory they lost, they are resorting to this type of attack to cause uncertainty and lack of confidence in the government in Kabul.


The 29 green-on-blue incidents in Afghanistan this year have not only killed U.S. and Afghan troops, but also other foreign military assisting the security forces.