KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan soldier opened fire on foreign troops Tuesday at a military base in western Afghanistan, killing an American soldier and wounding two Italian troops, a senior Afghan commander said.
The incident – unusual but not unprecedented – could heighten an already considerable sense of mistrust between Western troops and Afghan security forces. That in turn could undermine the Obama administration’s plan for Afghan forces eventually to shoulder the responsibility for safeguarding the nation and take the place of the 110,000 Western troops now serving in Afghanistan.
Details of Tuesday’s noontime shooting were still emerging hours later.
NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said in a brief statement that a U.S. soldier “died following a shooting incident today in western Afghanistan,” but declined to provide any other information about the circumstances.
The Afghan National Army’s regional commander, Gen. Jalandar Shah Bahnam, provided a considerably fuller account. He said the shooting occurred at a jointly run base in the Bala Murghab district of Badghis province. The province, bordering Iran, has been the scene of several days of clashes.
Western and Afghan troops have been hunting for three Afghan police officers missing after their post was attacked over the weekend. Dozens of insurgents had also massed and attacked other Afghan security posts, causing the coalition to rush in Western reinforcements.
Bahnam said the shooting followed an altercation between the foreign forces and their Afghan counterparts that broke out when Western troops refused to allow an Afghan soldier to approach an area where a helicopter was about to land. After that Afghan soldier opened fire, both Western and Afghan troops fired back, wounding him.