WASHINGTON — U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan have assigned “guardian angels” — troops that watch over comrades even as they sleep — and have ordered a series of increased security measures to protect troops against possible attacks by rogue Afghans.
The added protections are part of a directive issued in recent weeks by Marine Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, to guard against insider threats, according to a senior military official. And they come in the wake of a spike in attacks on U.S. and coalition forces by Afghans, including the point-blank shooting deaths of two U.S. advisers in Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior.
Some of the changes have been subtle, others not so much.
In several Afghan ministries, Americans are now allowed to carry weapons. And they have been instructed to rearrange their office desks there to face the door, so they can see who is coming in, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the internal directive.
While Allen did not detail the new measures in a briefing earlier this week, he acknowledged that changes had been made.
The security measures came after the U.S. military mistakenly burned Qurans and other religious materials in February, triggering anti-U.S. demonstrations and riots. And on Feb. 25, two U.S. military advisers were gunned down at their desks in one of the most heavily guarded ministry building in Kabul.
As a result of the shootings, more than 300 advisers were pulled out of the Afghan ministries. Several dozen have returned, but many will not go back until more security measures are put in place by Afghans. That would include better vetting procedures, background checks and physical security measures at the ministries. The military official also said some advisers may not return, since commanders have determined that some might no longer be needed in the jobs.