KABUL, Afghanistan – For the first time, a member of Afghanistan’s elite special forces has carried out a deadly attack against an American military mentor, a senior Afghan army official said Friday, an ominous escalation in the “green-on-blue” shootings that have threatened Western troops’ partnership with the Afghan police and army.
Until now, rank-and-file members of the Afghan security forces had been responsible for most of the dozens of “insider” shootings targeting members of the NATO force in recent years. But Afghanistan’s special forces are supposed to be selectively recruited, carefully vetted and better disciplined than ordinary soldiers and police officers.
Efforts to train the Afghan police and army are at the heart of the Western exit strategy, which is to be weighed at a NATO gathering in Chicago less than a month from now.
The NATO force, made up predominantly of Americans, has already begun handing over security responsibilities to Afghans in wide swaths of the country. But with the Western combat role set to wrap up by the end of 2014, U.S. and allied troops face a tight deadline for preparing Afghan forces to take the lead in confronting the Taliban and other insurgents.
In conducting the training, Western troops work and fight alongside their Afghan counterparts, often at small, remote bases, a relationship that is meant to foster trust and understanding but which sometimes flares into lethal altercations.
The latest deadly insider attack came Wednesday at a joint base in the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province, said Afghan army corps commander Gen. Abdul Hameed. He said a member of the Afghan special forces opened fire during a heated argument and killed an American soldier, whom he described as a member of the U.S. special forces.