KABUL, Afghanistan — A man in an Afghan soldier’s uniform was killed and a NATO service member wounded Saturday, officials said, in the latest in a series of so-called insider attacks that have fueled distrust at a time when international forces are handing off more national security responsibilities to their Afghan counterparts.
The attack took place Saturday after an argument between an Afghan and a foreign soldier at a military base on the outskirts of Kabul, said Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for the Afghan defense ministry. Waziri, who declined to provide further details about the incident, said an investigation was underway.
Lt. Col. LaTondra Kinley, a spokeswoman for the NATO-led coalition, said international troops were attacked by a man in an Afghan uniform who was subsequently killed. The reason for the attack, including whether it was ideologically motivated or the result of a personal dispute, was under investigation, she said, adding that as a matter of policy the coalition doesn’t discuss the wounded or the nationalities of those involved.
It was the fourth similar attack in the past month. Attacks by Afghan servicemen on their NATO colleagues reportedly have accounted for 15 international troop casualties this year and some 15% of all foreign deaths in 2012.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The Taliban has a history of exaggerating claims or taking credit for insider attacks to further its propaganda objectives, even when they’re sparked by personal disputes or cultural misunderstandings.
According to the independent website icasualties.com, 144 international troops have been killed so far this year in Afghanistan in all types of incidents, 115 of them Americans. Approximately 86,000 foreign soldiers from 49 nations remain in the impoverished central Asian nation, among them 60,000 Americans.
[For the Record, 3:48 p.m. PDT Oct. 26: An earlier version of this post indicated that about 97,000 foreign soldiers from 50 nations, including 68,000 Americans, were serving in Afghanistan. The International Security Assistance Force website includes the numbers cited in the paragraph above on a page dated Oct. 1.]
All international combat troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and Afghan forces have been taking a growing role in front-line operations. Consequently, the number of foreign fatalities has fallen — 144 international deaths in the January-October period compares with 402 in 2012 — while deaths among Afghan troops have risen.
While most NATO troop deaths have been the result of insurgent attacks, insider attacks have undercut morale, weakened trust between the two sides and put pressure on some foreign nations to withdraw. At least 60 NATO personnel reportedly died in insider attacks in 2012.
In response to these attacks, international commanders have changed operating procedures to include designating a NATO guard when Afghan soldiers are present. Contact has also been reduced, as have the number of weapons Afghan troops can carry when together. But this has made Afghans feel like second-class partners at a time when NATO is supposed to be training and mentoring them.
Earlier this month, Secretary of State John F. Kerry made an urgent visit to Kabul to jump start stalled negotiations on an agreement outlining how many and under what terms U.S. forces would remain in Afghanistan after 2014.
The two sides have been negotiating a security agreement for a year and both sides pledged in January to complete a deal by the end of October, although that deadline may slip. The agreement is needed to secure bases beyond 2014 and to craft deployment plans for training and other responsibilities after the bulk of the international force withdraws, U.S. officials have said.
The biggest sticking point in an agreement that could leave as many as 10,000 American soldiers in the country has been how much latitude they will have in pursuing suspected militants and whether any charges brought against them would be handled by Afghan courts. U.S. officials have said the agreement is 95% complete but timing is key given the Oct. 31 soft deadline.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called a meeting of tribal leaders next month to seek a consensus — and political cover, analysts say — on what form of foreign military presence would be acceptable after 2014. Karzai, who’s had an often-mercurial relationship with Washington, is due to step down in April.
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Special correspondent Baktash reported from Kabul and Times staff writer Magnier from New Delhi.