A soldier serving in the United States Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was killed during a “green-on-blue” incident at the Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan. Staff Sgt. Andrew Trevor Britton-Mihalo was born in San Jose, Costa Rica and raised in Simi Valley, Ventura County, California. He was 26 years old and is survived by Jesse Britton, who is also an enlisted non-commissioned officer (NCO) in the United States Army.
The incident in which Staff Sgt. Britton-Mihalo was killed resulted in the death of an Afghan translator and two other members of the coalition forces in Afghanistan. The attacker was a member of Afghanistan’s security forces, and he was assigned to an elite unit whose members are trained by NATO instructors.
Staff Sgt. Britton-Mihalo was engaged in a night raid along with other special forces soldiers, both NATO and Afghan. At some point during the operation, an elite Afghan soldier opened fire on his own patrol element. The attacker was killed at the site.
These green-on-blue incidents are of special concern to the NATO coalition forces in Afghanistan, particularly since they were rare in Iraq. The Taliban have claimed responsibility in some of the attacks, alleging infiltration into the security forces of Afghanistan, but some analysts believe that deep-seated cultural beliefs and internal conflicts between the forces are more likely culprits. In this sense, green-on-blue attacks like the one in which the Costa Rica-born Special Forces soldier was killed, are becoming similar to “fragging” -a term used by American forces during the Vietnam War to describe what amounted to questionably justified assassinations of superior officers and NCOs.
Interpersonal and cultural conflicts among armed fighting men in combat zones are also very volatile, which is the view from some on-the-ground reports. A recent article by the Agence France-Presse quoted the Chief of Police in the district of the Kandahar province where the incident took place:
“They were taking part in a night raid,” said Khan. “Probably Afghan and US forces had an argument that triggered the incident”
In previous green-on-blue incidents investigated by police detectives in Afghanistan, elements of disagreement and animosity between coalition forces came up as well. This latest incident took the lives of five soldiers, four Afghans, one American -and not one hostile. Other incidents have revealed similar situations in which coalition forces willfully shoot at each other in apparent “Mexican standoffs.”
A total of 18 NATO military personnel serving in Afghanistan have been killed by Afghan soldiers fighting alongside them against the Taliban Al Qaeda in the Graveyard Empire. The number of Afghan soldiers killed in these incidents is unknown, although it is believed that friendly-fire incidents in which Afghan soldiers are killed by NATO exacerbate the tension.
The family of Staff Sgt. Andrew Trevor Britton-Mihalo has requested burial at Arlington Memorial.
Last year, the Costa Rica Star published an article that looked at the lives of Ticos who served in the U.S. military and fought in Iraq.
Sources: U.S. Army, Ventura County Star and AFP