Feb. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Afghan army and police forces or civilian contractors have attacked U.S.-led coalition forces at least 46 times since May 2007, including an attack today in which an Afghan soldier shot and killed a U.S. Marine in the southern province of Helmand.
The Afghan army soldier opened fire at close range as he and the Marine guarded a joint operating base at about 12:30 a.m. today, General Sayed Malook, a corps commander based in Helmand, said by phone. The U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, confirmed that one of its soldiers was shot dead by an individual wearing an Afghan uniform.
Malook said the Afghan soldier had been taken into custody and told investigators that the killing wasn’t deliberate.
While the Taliban have claimed in the past to have infiltrated Afghan forces to carry out attacks on international troops or government officials, U.S. Defense Department data indicate that the majority, or 58 percent, of the attacks were motivated by personal matters and weren’t the result of insurgent activity.
In testimony prepared for a hearing today before the House Armed Services Committee, the department said 42 insider attacks from May 2007 through last year involved personnel of the Afghan National Security Forces, and three were carried out by Afghan contract employees of private security companies.
The attacks resulted in deaths of about 70 coalition personnel and the wounding of about 110, according to the testimony prepared by Pentagon officials including David Sedney, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia.
“The insider threat is an issue of increasing significance to coalition forces and Afghan national security forces operating in Afghanistan,” the Pentagon officials said in prepared testimony. “It creates distrust between our forces and their Afghan counterparts during a critical juncture in Afghanistan.”
While the majority of the attacks are motivated by personal reasons, “the second most prevalent causes of insider attacks were impersonation and infiltration,” according to the testimony.
In four cases, or 9 percent of the total, the perpetrator was recruited by the Taliban or other insurgents to conduct the attack, according to the report. In an additional four cases, the Taliban or other insurgents threatened or intimidated an Afghan soldiers or contractor. There are now 19,000 Afghans working for private security firms, according to separate data the Defense Department provided to the Armed Services Committee.
In one of the deadliest cases, an Afghan air force pilot killed eight U.S. military personnel and a contract employee of the coalition in April.
Four French soldiers were shot dead Jan. 20 and seventeen others were wounded when an Afghan soldier opened fire on them in Kapisa province north of capital, Kabul.
Following those killings and talks in Paris with Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said his country will withdraw its combat forces by the end of 2013, a year ahead of schedule. U.S. undersecretary of defense, Michele Flournoy, emphasized last week, before leaving the post, the need for NATO allies to coordinate their plans for troop withdrawals.
--Editors: John Walcott, Larry Liebert
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