A suspected Afghan police officer has shot dead a group of US special forces during a Ramadan meal. Recurring incidents of surprise attacks by Afghan police are undermining trust with their international mentors.
At least three US special forces soldiers have been shot dead by an Afghan wearing a police uniform, although it remained unclear whether the perpetrator was actually a member of the security forces or a Taliban infiltrator.
"All we know is that they were killed by an Afghan in a uniform of some sort," a NATO spokeswoman told Reuters news agency.
The special forces soldiers were attacked while attending a meeting late Thursday in the Sangin district of the volatile Helmand province in Afghanistan's south. Sangin district chief Mohammad Sharif told the AFP news agency that four US soldiers had been invited to a Ramadan evening meal by an Afghan policeman.
Muslims fast from dawn to dusk during Ramadan, sometimes eating a pre-sunrise breakfast, and always eating a substantial meal once the sun sets.
"Last night, a police checkpost commander invited four foreign special forces soldiers to a dinner at the checkpost," Sharif said. "He later killed them and ran away."
Unnamed Afghan officials identified the perpetrator to AFP as Asadullah. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that Asadullah had changed sides.
"Asadullah joined the mujahideen ranks after the killing," sad Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi.
Recurring attacks by uniformed Afghan police officers against international forces have undermined the trust between the nominal comrades-in-arms. According to NATO, there have been 24 such attacks on foreign troops since January, resulting in the deaths of 28 people. In 2011, there were 21 attacks by Afghan police on foreign soldiers, killing 35 people.
"Although the incidents are small in number we are aware of the gravity they have as an effect on morale," former ISAF spokesman Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson said earlier this year. "Every single incident has an out-of-proportion affect on morale and that goes for coalition forces as it goes for Afghan national security forces."
Most of the NATO-led foreign soldiers in Afghanistan are scheduled to withdraw from the country by 2014. The recurring attacks by local police on NATO troops have raised concerns about whether Afghanistan's security forces can stabilize the country on their own.
slk/jr (AFP, Reuters)