KABUL, Afghanistan -- Assailants believed to be members of the Afghan police killed four Western troops Sunday in southern Afghanistan, the NATO force said, less than 24 hours after two British soldiers were killed in a similar “insider” shooting.
Insider attacks, which have killed at least 51 NATO service members this year, have become a serious obstacle to Western efforts to train the Afghan police and army so they can take over the job of fighting the Taliban when the North Atlantic Treaty Organization combat mission ends in 2014.
The military statement, in keeping with usual practice, did not disclose the nationalities of the four who were killed Sunday, but most of the troops serving in the south are American or British. The NATO force said the incident was under investigation.
Often such attacks involve a lone assailant, but the military’s terse account of Sunday’s shooting indicated more than one attacker was involved. That might explain why four troops, an unusually large number, were killed in the same incident.
Both Western and Afghan officials have been making urgent efforts to stem the flood of insider attacks, including cultural training for troops on both sides, tighter vetting of Afghan recruits and the embedding of intelligence personnel in Afghan battalions to try to sniff out signs of trouble.
NATO personnel have been ordered to carry weapons with rounds in the chamber at all times, and “guardian angels” are assigned to watch over comrades at vulnerable times, such as when they are eating, sleeping, working out or bathing.
Last month, U.S. special forces suspended the training of about 1,000 recruits to a village militia known as the Afghan Local Police pending a rechecking of the entire 16,000-member force for links to the insurgency.
The American commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan, U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen, has said up to one-quarter of insider attacks are linked directly or indirectly to the Taliban, sometimes by threats to the families of members of the Afghan security forces, and sometimes through suborning troops when they are on leave from the Afghan military.
-- Laura KingPhoto: U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, attends a change of command ceremony of Italian soldiers in Herat province, Afghanistan, on Friday. Credit: Jalil Rezayee / European Pressphoto Agency