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We got a lot of response to our story on so-called “green on blue” violence in Afghanistan the other day. The phrase is used to describe attacks by Afghan workers or Afghan soldiers on the NATO forces that are either working with them or training them. I made the mistake of connecting this to uniform colors, as listener D.W. de Ganne pointed out in an email to us: “The term “Green on blue violence” has NOTHING TO DO with the color of anyone’s uniforms; it stems from NATO symbology which uses blue to identify “friendly” forces, red to identify “enemy” forces, and green to identify “neutral” forces. The color coding is kind of ubiquitous, from the ‘Red Team’ of war games (where the Army maintains units equipped with Soviet gear to represent the enemy) to the U.S. GPS-based system for keeping track of the location of troops in the battlespace, called “Blue Force Tracker.”
Listener Greg Holes wrote:
The U.S. Army uniforms in Afghanistan are a mix of green and two different shades of brown. The Marines are similar, but also have a tan uniform that has no green at all. The Only U.S. forces that have blue uniforms are the Navy and when they are attached to ground units in Afghanistan they wear the uniforms mentioned above. The Afghan security forces have several uniforms (Afghan National Army, Afghan Civil Order Police, Afghan National Police, etc) some of which are actually blue (the Afghan National Police.)
The attacks are taking a toll. In a 24-hour period last week six NATO troops were killed in green-on-blue attacks and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is blaming the Taliban for the recent increase. So far this year nearly 40 NATO troops or contractors have been killed in these sorts of attacks.