KABUL, Afghanistan -- Two U.S. soldiers were killed on patrol Thursday in southern Afghanistan when a man in an Afghan national police uniform opened fire on them, a spokesman for the NATO-led force said.
The shooter escaped and the military was not sure if he was a member of the Afghan security forces or an insurgent in disguise. “It’s under investigation,” Charlie Stadtlander, a spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, said of the attack in Oruzgan province.
Separately, a third soldier from the international coalition was killed and three others wounded by insurgents in western Afghanistan’s Farah province, the NATO-led force said in a statement. The force provided no further information, but the Italian Defense Ministry later reported that the slain soldier was one of theirs.
The deaths in Oruzgan were almost certain to heighten tensions among the U.S. and Afghan forces, whose relationship has been tested this year by the wave of killings of Western soldiers by their Afghan colleagues. The NATO-led force has counted 53 deaths of coalition members this year at the hands of Afghan army or police counterparts.
U.S. military commanders are still seeking to understand the reason for the epidemic. While the Taliban has claimed many of the deaths, the killings also reflect real resentment and anger on the part of Afghans toward their Western allies.
Western troops are meant to train and mentor the Afghan forces so they can take over the country’s security by the end of 2014, when international forces will largely leave Afghanistan.
Such shootings make it harder to plan the seamless transition sought by the United States. They also complicate the diplomatic relationship between Western nations and Afghanistan as the international community focuses on ensuring the Afghans’ next presidential election in 2014 is seen as free and fair.
-- Ned Parker