KABUL, Afghanistan -- A gunman in an Afghan uniform shot and killed three American service members in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said Friday, in the latest of an intensifying spate of so-called green-on-blue attacks.
An Afghan official in Helmand province where the shooting took place said the three men killed were members of U.S. special operations forces, lured to their deaths by a police commander who invited them to dinner Thursday night at his checkpost. The Taliban claimed responsibility and said the gunman had defected to the insurgency.
The apparently premeditated nature of the attack added an alarming new dimension to the phenomenon of Afghan police and soldiers turning their weapons on Western mentors. The NATO force has disclosed 28 such deaths so far this year, and the latest shooting, in Helmand’s Sangin district, was the second of its kind this week.
The attacks pose a quandary for Western military officials, because the training of Afghan police and soldiers is a crucial part of plans to wind down the NATO force’s combat role and hand over security responsibilities to Afghan soldiers. Such mentoring requires Western troops to live and work in close quarters with their Afghan counterparts.
An Afghan official speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject said it was not clear how many assailants had taken part in the attack because the attackers had fled. Also present at the dinner were recruits to the Afghan Local Police, a village militia being trained by American special forces, the official said.
Western military officials say that a minority of such attacks are carried out by Taliban infiltrators, blaming more of the shootings on disputes and personal antagonism.
A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, identified the police commander who took part in the attack as Asadullah, and described him as a “hero” who had come over to the Taliban side, bringing his weapon with him.
The latest green-on-blue attack came against a backdrop of growing violence in southern Afghanistan. In Helmand’s Musa Qala district, a civilian minivan hit a roadside bomb, killing six people, including women and children, and injuring five. All the victims were from the same family, the Helmand governor’s office said.
-- Laura King