(CNSNews.com) – The commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan on Thursday cited the stress of fasting during Ramadan – which fell at the height of summer this year – as one possible reason for a spike in “insider attacks” on U.S. troops. However, the Muslim fast month historically has been associated with jihad.
Briefing reporters at the Pentagon via satellite from Kabul, U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen was asked how he accounted for the recent increase in so-called “green-on-blue” attacks, and replied that it “may have something to do with Ramazan.” (Ramazan is the term for Ramadan widely used in South Asia).
He noted that the month fell this year “in the middle of the fighting season, during some of the harshest time for the climate in much of the region in which we fight.”
“And so the daily pressures that are on some of these [Afghan] troops, compounded by the sacrifice associated with fasting, the nature of our operational tempo – remembering that Afghan troops have gone to the field and they have stayed in the field, and they’ve been in combat now for years – we believe that the combination of many of these particular factors may have come together during the last several weeks to generate the larger numbers [of insider attacks] that you point to.”
“I want to be careful not to lay the blame for green-on-blue solely on Ramazan,” Allen said a few minutes later in reply to a follow-up question, “but I think that the holy month of Ramazan demands great sacrifice of the Muslims who observe it. And the idea that they will fast during the day places great strain on them.”
Being a lunar month, Ramadan is observed at different times each year, and in 2012 ran from approximately July 20 to August 19.
On August 19, last Sunday, two Afghan policemen in Kandahar province shot dead a U.S. soldier, who became the tenth American to die in such incidents in the previous two weeks.
Fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has taken credit for successful Taliban infiltration of “the ranks of the enemy,” while Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused unnamed “foreign spy agencies” who he said had infiltrated Afghan forces to undermine them.
For his part Allen pointed to a variety of reasons, including infiltration, impersonation, coercion, specific grievances – and possibly the strains of fasting in high summer.
Ramadan marks the month during which Muslims believe Allah revealed the Qur’an to Mohammed in the 7th century. Muslims refrain from food, drink and other worldly pleasures between sunrise and sunset.
Muslims say it is a time of reflection and solidarity, with evenings spent eating, socializing and reciting scriptures.
But it is also a time of Islamist zeal, and some of the most important battles in Islamic history occurred during the month. In the very first Ramadan, in 624, Mohammed led his forces to victory against their Meccan enemies in the Battle of Badr, a triumph Muslims attribute to divine intervention.
Other important Islamic battles that took place during Ramadan over the centuries included those against the Franks in France (732), Crusaders in the Holy Land (1099 and 1187), against Mongols in the Galilee (1260), and against Tartars in Crimea (1476).
When Egypt in 1973 launched a surprise attack against Israel on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, that offensive also occurred during Ramadan. Egyptian commanders called it Operation Badr, seeking to inspire their men by linking it to Mohammed’s first Ramadan battle.
‘Month of jihad, zeal and enthusiasm’
Ramadan has also become a popular time for jihadist attacks, and Osama bin Laden used the first Ramadan after 9/11 to urge Pakistani Muslims to rise up against the U.S.-led military campaign then underway against in Afghanistan – even as some Muslim leaders were urging the U.S. to end hostilities during the fasting month.
Iraqi al-Qaeda terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2005 urged Muslims to escalate attacks against “the worshippers of the cross” during Ramadan, calling it “a month of serious work, jihad and initiative.”
Among many others since the turn of the century, a spate of church bombings in Indonesia in 2000, at assault on the Indian Parliament in 2001, attacks against Israeli targets in Kenya in 2002, attacks in Riyadh and Istanbul in 2003, major suicide bombings in Pakistan in 2008 and 2011, and numerous attacks in Iraq over multiple years, all occurred during Ramadan.
Last month a jihadist group claimed that it had carried out the bombing of a bus targeting Israeli tourists in Bulgaria on the eve of Ramadan, saying in a statement, “The month of Ramadan is a month of holy war and death for Allah. It is a month for fighting the enemies of Allah and God’s messenger, the Jews and their American facilitators.” (Israel has accused Iran and Hezbollah of carrying out the attack, which killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian.)
A 2010 commentary posted on a Chechen extremist website under the name of an influential Saudi cleric calls Ramadan the “month of jihad.”
“The greatest battles during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be upon him) occurred in this blessed month, the month of jihad, zeal and enthusiasm.”
On another Islamist website, a writer named Muhammad Ali Abdul-Wahhab touched on the idea in a March 2011 article.
“Rarely a month witnessed so many battles for fighting for the sake of Allah and the achievement of great conquests and victories of Islam like the month of Ramadan,” he wrote.
“The fasting of Ramadan contains forbearance to hardship exactly as Jihad needs patience for hardship,” he said. “Fasting and Jihad are correlated, so there is no wonder that Ramadan contains all these victories and battles which changed the course of history.”
In a lengthy statement released last week to mark the end of Ramadan, Taliban leader Omar congratulated Afghans or their fasting and “Jihadic achievements.”
“May Allah, the Almighty give success, in this world and in the world to come, to all Mujahideen [holy warriors] who are sacrificing their lives, those who continued to remain at their strongholds engaged despite the hunger and thirst in the month of Ramadan.”
Omar also referred to the insider attacks.
“Mujahideen have cleverly infiltrated in the ranks of the enemy according to the plan given to them last year. Many conscious Afghans in the rank and files of the enemy have shown willingness to help the Mujahideen in a shrewd and astute manner after having come around to know the reality. As a result, the foreign invaders and their allies in their military centers and bases do come under crushing blows of these heroic soldiers,” he said.
“In the recent days, you and we were witness of such frequent incidents.”