An Afghan soldier shot and wounded five U.S. soldiers late Tuesday at a base in eastern Afghanistan in what is the latest in a series of “green on blue” attacks by local forces on their coalition counterparts.
Tuesday’s attack comes after three British troops were shot dead Sunday in southern Helmand province by a man wearing an Afghan police uniform. Afghan security forces will be responsible for defending their country when coalition troops withdraw by the end of 2014, and the incidents raise questions about their reliability.
A spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force, as the coalition is formally known, said Tuesday’s attack occurred in the evening at a joint Afghan army-coalition base in the Sayed Abad district of Wardak province.
U.S. Air Force Capt. Dan Einert, an ISAF spokesman, told McClatchy the five soldiers were all taken to a coalition medical facility for treatment. “They’re all stable at this time,” Einert said.
The Afghan soldier who shot them had escaped, said Einert. He added that there was no indication of what precipitated the shooting.
ISAF refused to confirm the nationality of the wounded soldiers. However, Shahidullah Shahid, a spokesman for Wardak’s governor, confirmed that they were Americans. “A man wearing an Afghan army uniform went into an ISAF base in the Hashim Khel area of Sayed Abad and opened fire on the American troops…before running away,” Shahid said.
A senior Afghan security official told McClatchy that the attacker was an Afghan soldier from northern Kunduz province. “It was seven in the evening when he entered the base – a time when (the American troops) were doing sport or relaxing,” the official said. He declined to be named because he was not authorized to discuss the case with media.
The Taliban in a Web site statement listed the attacker as Mohammad Wali, claiming he was an “Afghan self-motivated soldier (who) shot dead seven invaders with his PK,” a Russian-made heavy machine gun.
“The soldier has been with the puppet army based at the invader’s base for a long time,” the statement said, referring respectively to the Afghan army and coalition troops. “He is now safely out of the area and has joined the local mujahideen,” or Islamic holy warriors, as the Taliban refer to themselves.
Twenty-six coalition soldiers have been killed in 19 “green on blue” attacks this year. Last year, 35 were killed in 21 incidents, according to coalition figures. ISAF claims most attacks are carried out not by Taliban infiltrators but by Afghans who are frustrated with the behavior of their Western counterparts.
Meanwhile, ISAF said that a coalition soldier died in southern Afghanistan Wednesday as the result of a non-battle-related injury. ISAF refused to confirm the nationality of the service member or any other details about the incident.
Also Wednesday, a woman was killed and two men and a child seriously injured when an improvised explosive device destroyed their vehicle in the Marjah district of Helmand province, a statement from the Helmand governor’s office said. Security forces rushed the survivors to hospital in Lashkar Gah after the explosion, which occurred around 6 a.m.
Blowing up innocent people demonstrated yet again that the attackers were “the enemies of Islam, civilians, and the country, and are not able to fight face-to-face with our security forces,” the statement said.
Stephenson is a McClatchy special correspondent. Special correspondent Ali Safi contributed from Kabul.