Insider attack kills 2 US troops, 2 Afghans

By Heidi Vogt

Associated Press

Published: Monday, March 11 2013 12:14 p.m. MDT

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, left, is greeted by members of the U.S. Army and Marines during his visit to the Kabul Military Training Center in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, March 10, 2013. Hagel is on his first trip to Afghanistan as defense secretary. (AP Photo/Jason Reed, Pool)

Jason Reed, ASSOCIATED PRESS

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KABUL, Afghanistan — A police officer opened fire on U.S. and Afghan forces at a police headquarters in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, sparking a firefight that killed two U.S. troops and two other Afghan policemen. The attacker was also killed in the shootout, officials said.

In a second incident, outside Kabul, U.S. troops fired on a truck approaching their military convoy, killing two Afghan men inside.

The shooting in the eastern Wardak province was the latest in a series of insider attacks against coalition and Afghan forces that have threatened to undermine their alliance at a time when cooperation would aid the planned handover of security responsibility to local forces next year.

The attack also comes a day after the expiration of the Afghan president's deadline for U.S. special forces to withdraw from the province.

U.S. officials have said that they are working with Afghan counterparts to answer President Hamid Karzai's concerns and maintain security in Wardak. Most of the U.S. troops in Wardak are special operations forces.

In Monday's attack, an Afghan police officer stood up in the back of a police pickup truck, grabbed a machine gun and started firing at the U.S. special operations forces and Afghan policemen in the police compound in Jalrez district, said the province's Deputy Police Chief Abdul Razaq Koraishi.

The assailant killed two Afghan policemen and wounded four, including the district police chief, before he was gunned down, Koraishi said.

The U.S. military said in a statement that two American service members were killed in the shooting. A U.S. defense official in Washington said early reports indicate that 10 Americans and at least 12 Afghans were wounded in the attack, in addition to those killed. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss details of the attack with reporters.

U.S. forces were holding five Afghan police officers for questioning, Koraishi said.

Karzai ordered U.S. special operations forces to leave Wardak province, just outside the Afghan capital, because of allegations that Afghans working with the U.S. commandos were involved in abusive behavior. Karzai gave them two weeks to leave, and the deadline expired Sunday.

On Sunday, Karzai accused U.S. forces of working with the Taliban to stage two suicide bombings over the weekend during the visit of U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. In a speech, Karzai said the Americans want to scare Afghans into allowing them to stay.

That brought a sharp rebuke from the U.S. ambassador Monday, as news of the insider attack in Wardak emerged.

"The thought that we would collude with the Taliban flies in the face of everything we have done here and is absolutely without foundation," Ambassador James Cunningham said in a statement. "It is inconceivable that we would spend the lives of America's sons, daughters, and our treasure, in helping Afghans to secure and rebuild their country, and at the same time be engaged in endangering Afghanistan or its citizens."

The Wardak shooting is the third insider attack this year.

Afghan soldiers opened fire on U.S. forces at a joint base in eastern Afghanistan last Friday, killing one U.S. contractor and injuring four U.S. troops. A U.S. military official confirmed Monday that the attackers were Afghan soldiers. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the NATO investigation was not complete.

The pace of incidents is much slower than in 2012, when coalition troops were hit with 46 insider attacks that killed 64 coalition troops and wounded 95, according to a senior coalition intelligence officer. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be publicly identified. By AP's count, at this time last year, there had been eight attacks. In 2011, 21 insider attacks killed 35.

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