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Afghan soldier wounds US troops

An Afghan soldier has shot and wounded at least three US soldiers in Jalalabad, just after a US embassy official had visited Afghan provincial officials. American troops returned fire, killing the assailant.

Afghanistan's second insider shooting of the year left several US troops wounded on Wednesday. Witnesses said the Afghan soldier who opened fire was subsequently killed in return fire.

General Fazel Ahmad Sherzad, the police chief of Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province, said the assailant opened fire inside a provincial compound "right after" the departure of the US embassy official.

The news agency Associated Press said the four Americans wounded were being treated at a clinic on the American base in Jalalabad. Responsibility for security is currently being transferred from US-led to newly trained Afghan forces (pictured above).

On January 29, a gunman in an Afghan uniform was shot dead at Kabul airport after he had shot and

killed three US aviation mechanics

contracted to the US Defense Department.

Responsibility was later claimed by Taliban rebels.

US withdrawal slowed

Last week, US President Barack Obama announced that Washington would slow down its military withdrawal from Afghanistan after a request to do so from

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

In a separate incident late on Tuesday, two people were killed during an ambush apparently aimed at police in the eastern province of Kunar.

A police spokesman said the dead were a man and woman from the same family.

Ministerial nominee drops out

Reuters reported Wednesday that the new Afghan cabinet's latest choice for defense minister, General Mohammad Afzal Ludin, had dropped out.

Ludin said his nomination, made two days ago, had resulted in internal divisions, so he had decided to withdraw his candidacy.

The former Soviet-era commander was the second to be nominated after the cabinet rejected the first nominee in January.

Ghani and Afghan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah have struggled since Afghanistan's election and the formation of a government of national unity to complete their ministerial line-up.

Some Afghan lawmakers said Abdullah's mainly Tajik team was angered by the nomination of Ludin because he is a Pashtun like President Ghani.

US and Pakistan 'close' to deal

Reuters also reported that the US and Pakistan had moved closer to finalizing a billion-dollar defense deal. It would include 15 attack helicopters and 1,000 Hellfire missiles to strengthen Pakistan's bid to suppress the Taliban inside its borders.

For years, Pakistan has been fighting a Taliban insurgency in its northwest and a separatist insurgency along its border with Iran to the west.

ipj/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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