Seven international soldiers have been killed by their local colleagues in a bloody four days of violence in Afghanistan, further eroding trust between foreign troops and the Afghans they work with.
Six died on Friday alone — three US soldiers were shot by an Afghan policeman who invited them to a meal and three other troops were killed by an Afghan civilian employed on a NATO base, military and Afghan officials said.
NATO has about 130,000 soldiers helping the Afghan government fight an insurgency by Taliban Islamists, but they are due to pull out in 2014 and are increasingly working with Afghans they are training to take over.
“Clearly as far as the future partnering and training and mentoring of Afghan forces by NATO and the US is concerned, it is going to have a very negative effect and the lack of trust between the two sides is going to grow,” author and analyst Ahmed Rashid said.
“NATO will have to impose new security measures for its own troops when they are dealing with Afghans or training Afghans, which will put even more distance between the two sides,” Rashid said.
Some of the attacks are claimed by the Taliban, who say they have infiltrated the ranks of Afghan security forces, but many are attributed to cultural differences and antagonism between local and US-led allied forces.
“What we identified was that most of them were caused by personal grievances and stress situations,” said Brigadier General Gunter Katz, the chief spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
“Those isolated incidents don’t reflect the overall security situation in Afghanistan. As we speak 500,000 soldiers and policemen are working together to contribute to a more secure and stable Afghanistan,” he said.
“We are confident that the morale [among international troops] is still good and those incidents will not affect our transition process.”
Katz agreed, however, that there had been an increase in so-called green-on-blue attacks this year in which Afghans turn their weapons against their NATO allies.
NATO had recorded 26 incidents, in which 34 international soldiers were killed, he said.
“Insurgents understand that this type of action is the most effective one, so they tend to use it as much as they can,” a Western security source said. “But apart from that, there is a general feeling of Afghans being fed up with the foreign troops, cultural issues.”
On Tuesday, a US soldier died in the east when two men in Afghan army uniform opened fire, and on Thursday an Afghan soldier was killed after turning his weapon on NATO troops, also in the east.
Then, on Friday, an Afghan police officer opened fire on four US soldiers he had invited for a meal, killing three of them, Afghan officials said.
The US military in Afghanistan confirmed that three US soldiers had been killed by “an individual in an Afghan uniform” in Sangin district of southern Helmand Province, but gave no further details.
Two Afghan officials said that the soldiers were shot dead by an Afghan police officer who had invited them for a meal at his checkpost in the restive southern province.
“Asadullah, the police checkpost commander, invited four foreign special forces soldiers to a [Ramadan] breakfast at 2:30am in Sangin district,” a senior security officer in the province said, requesting anonymity. “He later opened fire on the special forces soldiers, killing three and wounding another, and he managed to run away.”