Small Wars Journal

Afghan Troops Get a Lesson in American Cultural Ignorance

Afghan Troops Get a Lesson in American Cultural Ignorance by Kevin Sieff and Richard Leiby of The Washington Post.

A new Afghan army-issued guide explains to soldiers here that when their Western counterparts do something deeply insulting, it’s likely a product of cultural ignorance and not worthy of revenge.

Eleven years into the war in Afghanistan, NATO troops and Afghan soldiers are still beset by a dangerous lack of cultural understanding, officials say, contributing to a string of insider attacks that have threatened to undermine the military partnership. Fifty-one coalition troops have been killed this year by their Afghan counterparts...


The operating environment in Afghanistan is already challenging without the additional threat of retalitory attacks from cultural misunderstandings. The relatively recent "insider attacks" create an environment of suspicion and distrust between the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) and ANA, ANSF, ANP or other security forces from the GIRoA. Although some of these attacks are either linked to cultural insensitivity or a new Taliban tactic to undermine ISAF legitimacy, the trust between ISAF and the majority of the Afghan military/security forces will remain resolute. If this is a new enemy tactic, it would behoove GIRoA to refine their selection and recruiting procedures. If it is a matter of cultural differences then fostering a deeper understanding of the particular culture Soldiers will operate in is critical; cultural TSIRT conducted by an anthropologist for more than two or three hours. It should encompass much more than a rudimentary understanding. I don't doubt that these two courses of action have been looked at more than once over the last eleven years. It is my humble opinion that they are revisited and scrutinized much, much more.

Suprise, it's our fault they are murdering our troops.