Uniformed Afghan kills 3 U.S. troops in 3rd such incident this week


McClatchy Newspapers

Three Americans were killed Friday when a man in an Afghan security force uniform turned his weapon against them, U.S. military officials said.

A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition said it hadn’t been confirmed whether the attacker was a member of Afghanistan’s security forces. But the incident, in Afghanistan’s restive Helmand province, appears to be the latest in a series of so-called green on blue attacks by local forces on their coalition counterparts.

The International Security Assistance Force, as the U.S.-led coalition is formally known, has recorded about 67 green on blue attacks since January 2007. Forty-five such incidents, or two-thirds, have occurred since the beginning of last year – three this week alone. On Tuesday, two men wearing Afghan National Army uniforms shot a U.S. soldier to death in eastern Paktia province. On Thursday, an Afghan soldier opened fire on a group of coalition troops outside a military base in eastern Afghanistan. No international forces were killed in that incident, but the coalition reported that the attacker was killed when its forces returned fire.

Twenty-eight coalition soldiers have been killed and about 60 wounded in 24 green-on-blue attacks this year. Last year, 35 were killed in 21 incidents, according to coalition figures.

The U.S. military and the ISAF claim that most green on blue attacks are carried out not by Taliban infiltrators but by Afghans who are frustrated with the behavior of their Western counterparts.

“These are isolated incidents, and they are not reflective of the partnership that we have with Afghan forces every day,” said Air Force Maj. Lori Hodge, a U.S. military spokeswoman.

A coalition official who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue called the recent uptick in such attacks “clearly disturbing.” But the official also said that given the approximately 350,000 Afghan security personnel and 129,000 coalition troops in Afghanistan, green-on-blue attacks were still “quite an unusual occurrence.”

Still, the rising number undermines support in some coalition nations for the war in Afghanistan.

When an Afghan soldier shot four French troops dead Jan. 20 at a joint base in Kapisa province, France’s then-president, Nicolas Sarkozy, described green on blue attacks as “unacceptable.” A fifth soldier later died of his wounds. The Kapisa killings prompted Sarkozy to advance the withdrawal date for French combat troops to the end of next year. His successor, Francois Hollande, has pledged to withdraw French troops a year earlier – by the end of this year.

Stephenson is a McClatchy special correspondent.

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