Afghan soldier kills two British troops
KANDAHAR AN Afghan soldier shot dead two British troops in southern Afghanistan on Monday, raising to 15 the number of foreign military personnel to die in such killings this year.
One in six of the 90 foreign soldiers to have died in Afghanistan in 2012 has been killed in so-called “green-onblue” attacks by Afghan security personnel, significantly raising tensions between NATO forces and their local colleagues.
“It appears that a member of the Afghan national army opened fire at the entrance gate to the British headquarters in Lashkar Gah city, killing the two British service personnel,” said Britain’s Defence Secretary Philip Hammond. The attacker was shot dead by coalition forces.
Lashkar Gah is the main town in the Taliban stronghold of Helmand province, but was among the first places where security responsibility was handed from ISAF to Afghan forces as part of a gradual transition process.
Provincial police chief Abdul Nabi Elham said the gunman was a lieutenant named Afsar Gul from Jalalabad.
“As soon as the NATO soldiers opened the game for him and his team in their centre, this soldier opened fire at them and killed them,” he said.
“We don’t know the motive behind this attack and have not found a link to the Taliban. We are still investigating.” The Afghan defence ministry in Kabul declined to comment.
Exact details of the incident remained unclear, with accounts differing on whether an argument took place before the shooting started, and whether another Afghan soldier was killed.
The deaths are the latest in a series of such killings that have seen 15 personnel of NATO’s US-led International Security Assistance Force die this year, an ISAF spokesman said.
NATO is training Afghan forces to take over national security by the end of 2014, allowing foreign combat troops to withdraw after a costly and lengthy war against the Taliban insurgency.
The deaths come less than three weeks after six British soldiers were killed when a huge explosion ripped through their armoured vehicle near Lashkar Gah.
Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for that attack, which pushed the number of British dead in Afghanistan over the 400 mark.
Aside from Monday’s shooting, previous green-onblue attacks this year have killed six Americans, four French army trainers, an Albanian and two ISAF personnel whose nationality has not been disclosed.
The frequency of the incidents reached a peak after copies of the Holy Quran were burned at an incinerator pit at the US-run Bagram airbase, leading US President Barack Obama to apologise for what he described as an error.
Around 40 people were killed in days of violent demonstrations as protesters targeted Western bases.
At one point NATO withdrew all its advisers from Afghan government ministries after two US officers were killed inside the interior ministry, apparently by an Afghan colleague. Some, but not all, have since returned.
On March 11, a massacre of 17 Afghan civilians, including nine children and four women, blamed on a lone American soldier brought relations between Kabul and Washington to a further low.
A classified coalition report leaked to The New York Times earlier this year described green-on-blue shootings as a “systemic” problem.
The report put the killings down to a decade of deepseated animosity on each side, and profound ill-will among both civilians and soldiers on both sides, downplaying the role of possible Taliban infiltrators in such incidents.
Britain is the second biggest contributor of troops to Afghanistan after the United States with 9,500 soldiers, but it is set to pull out all combat forces by the end of 2014 in line with other NATO nations.