General: ‘Inside threat’ from Afghan troops takes courage to face


Maj. Gen. John Toolan speaks with Marines of 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, during a January visit to Forward Operating Base White House. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Justin Loya)

In next week’s Marine Corps Times, we’ll have a package of stories highlighting what’s coming this summer for Marines in Afghanistan. Much of it comes from an interview I did Friday with Maj. Gen. John Toolan, the top commander in Helmand and Nimroz provinces, where 17,000 Marines are deployed.

We covered a lot of ground, some of which appeared in this breaking news story last week. Then I asked the general if there was anything else he wanted to touch on.

Not surprisingly, he said he was proud of the troops under his command. But he also added a candid assessment of what it’s like to be training members of the Afghan national security forces, even after dozens of them have killed U.S. personnel in the last few years.

“There’s one threat out there that could really damage the progress that has been made so far,” Toolan said. “There are a couple of threats, actually. Corruption is one. But, the other is this insider threat –you know, that the Afghan security forces in a couple of instances have turned on their advisers, trainers and mentors.”

The glue that keeps the training mission going is trust, and the insurgency knows it, Toolan said. The Taliban has actively attempted to turn Afghan troops against their mentors, “and it’s just an act of courage and commitment every day that our guys step up, take the time, building the relationships with the Afghans, teaching them about their job, and most importantly modeling how to behave when you’re given responsibility and authority.”

The general didn’t add much else to the topic, but it’s a frank assessment of what he and his troops are dealing with. It’s also rings a lot truer than when military officials suggest there’s no pattern emerging with green-on-blue deaths.


About Author

I'm a senior writer with Marine Corps Times, covering ground warfare, manpower, weapons acquisition and other beats. I embedded in Afghanistan in spring 2010, and plan to return at least once in 2011.


  1. hello .. could you provide me about any contact ifno for Retired Col . Matthew A. Lopez or any one have worked in iraq -Anbar province camp Ramadi -AL-Qaim 2009

  2. Pingback: Fake War on Terror update « Oak Bay Starfish

  3. Between the riots and people turning on you it makes me really question why we are still there. It just seems to me the people are not grateful and/or understanding. I could be totally wrong since I have never been over there, but really, why do we tolerate them killing our men and women while we are trying to help them.

Leave A Reply