REPORTING FROM KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- An Afghan soldier apparently in league with the Taliban killed two French soldiers Thursday in eastern Afghanistan, French officials said.
It was the latest in a series of incidents in which members of the Afghan security forces have fired on the NATO troops who serve as their mentors -- a phenomenon that threatens Western plans to switch from a combat role to a training one in preparation for the Afghan army and police assuming responsibility in the coming three years for safeguarding the country.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the killings, but said what it called three French terrorists were killed rather than two.
The shooting took place in the Tagab Valley, east of the capital, Kabul, French military officials said. Tagab is in Kapisa province, where the bulk of France’s nearly 4,000 troops in Afghanistan are deployed.
NATO’s International Security Assistance Force disclosed the deaths of two service members in eastern Afghanistan without specifying their nationalities, but acknowledged that the shots were fired by “an individual wearing an Afghan National Army uniform.” Such attacks have plagued the NATO force this year.
In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed that the two servicemen killed were French, and reiterated France’s commitment to the Afghan mission. French officials described the assailant as apparently an Afghan army member in good standing, not someone who had simply managed to procure a uniform.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said the shooting had been carried out by what it described as a sleeper agent named Ibrahim, who had joined “the puppet army” for that specific purpose. The Taliban and other insurgent groups routinely describe the government of President Hamid Karzai and its security forces as puppets of the West.