Two US soldiers shot and killed as attacks in Afghanistan escalate
By GRAHAM BOWLEY
and RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr.
THE NEW YORK TIMES | August 28,2012
KABUL, Afghanistan — Two U.S. soldiers were shot and killed by a member of the Afghan army in eastern Afghanistan on Monday when a dispute broke out during a joint U.S. and Afghan patrol, Afghan officials said.
There were unconfirmed reports that the dispute erupted after the convoy was hit by a roadside bomb. NATO confirmed that two of its soldiers had been killed by a member of the Afghan army.
In a separate episode in the southeast, attackers killed 10 Afghan soldiers at a checkpoint in Helmand province early Monday, in what a provincial spokesman described as the latest attack by insurgents who had infiltrated the Afghan military.
The Taliban, meanwhile, cut the throats of 17 civilians — including two women — in a rural, Taliban-controlled district of Helmand on Sunday, Afghan officials said.
The killing of U.S. soldiers in the east, in Laghman province, brought the number of coalition soldiers shot by Afghan police and military forces so far this year to 42, 12 of them this month alone.
Noor Rahman, a Laghman police official, said the shooting occurred at about 9 a.m. in the Alingar district.
“A verbal argument erupted and fire was exchanged,” he said.
Lt. Col. Hagen Messer, a NATO spokesman in Kabul, said the Afghan soldier was shot and killed in a return of fire and that no other coalition soldiers were wounded.
“According to our initial operational reporting, a service member of the ANA turned his weapon against ISAF forces, killing two ISAF service members,” Messer said, referring to the Afghan army and the International Security Assistance Force, the formal name of the NATO-led force. “ISAF forces returned fire, killing the attacker.”
The shooting of the Afghan soldiers in the south in Helmand province took place at a checkpoint in the Washir district, according to Dawood Ahmadi, the spokesman for the Helmand governor.
Ahmadi said five other Afghan soldiers fled the checkpoint. He described these as insurgents who had infiltrated the Afghan army and plotted to carry out the attack.
“The enemy does not have the strength to fight our forces face to face,” he said. “Therefore, they try to carry out attacks by infiltrating in Afghan forces.”
The number of so-called green-on-green, or insider, attacks by Afghan police and military forces on their own troops has risen sharply over the past two years, mirroring a similar increase in attacks by Afghan forces on NATO troops
The majority of attacks on Western forces are motivated by outrage or personal disputes, officials say. But officials blame infiltration by the Taliban for most of the Afghan-on-Afghan attacks.
Early reports were confusing, however. The Ministry of Defense in Kabul, while confirming the deaths, rejected the characterization of the episode as an insider attack by infiltrators. A spokesman, Dawlat Waziri, said a large number of insurgents had attacked the checkpoint, and that there had been a prolonged confrontation, leaving several members of the Taliban dead.
In Helmand, officials said authorities were investigating the killings of the 17 civilians, which occurred in the Kajaki district.
“The government does not have access to this area because of the strong Taliban presence,” said Ahmadi, the provincial spokesman.
He vowed that a military operation would be carried out there soon. He said none of the victims had any ties to the government.
The Afghan Interior Ministry provided a similar account of the killings and called them “another unforgivable and shameful crime.” The ministry said the attack took place Sunday in the Shah Kariz region of Kajaki when “armed Taliban opened fire” and slit the throats of “17 innocent civilians, including two women.”
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By late Monday morning a disagreement had emerged between local Helmand officials about the killings.
Haji Naimatullah Khan, the governor of the Musa Qala district, which borders Kajaki to the west, said the throat cuttings occurred in Musa Qala, in a village known Roshan Abad.
He confirmed the death toll of 17 but said the men who were killed either did have links to the government or were providing information to authorities. Two women were killed, he said, because they had begged the Taliban to spare the lives of the men. He said he based his account on reports from witnesses and relatives of the victims.
“Sometimes they provided intelligence information to the government, and the Taliban learned that these are the people who had links with government,” Haji Khan said of the victims. “They were detained in their homes and taken away.”
“The area is not secure, and there is a heavy presence of Taliban,” he said.