An Afghan border policeman killed six US servicemen during a training mission on Monday, underscoring one of the risks in a US-led program to educate enough recruits to turn over the lead for security to Afghan forces by 2014.
The shooting in a remote area near the Pakistani border appeared to be the deadliest attack of its kind in at least two years.
Attacks on NATO troops by Afghan policemen or soldiers, although still rare, have increased as the coalition has accelerated the program. Other problems with the rapidly growing security forces include drug use, widespread illiteracy and high rates of attrition.
Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary confirmed that the gunman in Monday’s attack was a border police officer, rather than an insurgent who donned the uniform for a day.
The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying the gunman joined the border police to kill foreign soldiers.
“Today he found this opportunity and he killed six invaders,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement e-mailed to the media.
The shooter opened fire on the NATO troops and then was killed in the shootout, NATO said, without providing additional details.
US Colonel Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, confirmed that the six killed were US soldiers. He declined to provide their identities or say which military branch they were from until next of kin could be notified.
Bashary said the incident happened in the Pachir Wagam district of Nangarhar Province, a volatile area near Pakistan.
An investigation team has been sent to Pachir Wagam, said Afghan General Aminullah Amerkhail, the regional border police commander for the east. However, he said information was not coming back quickly.
“The area is very remote,” he said. “Even the telephones are not working there.”
NATO is still investigating an incident earlier this month in which two US Marines were killed in southern Helmand Province, allegedly at the hands of an Afghan soldier.
After two deadly shootings in July, NATO officers said they were re-examining training practices to make sure that such attacks did not happen again.
The recent increase in such shootings suggests that the Afghan security forces may be suffering from growing pains. In the past year, the size of the Afghan police force grew 27 percent from about 95,000 officers to 120,500. The army increased 42 percent from 97,000 soldiers to about 138,200.