3 British Soldiers Killed By Special Afghan Police Force Officer

3 British Soldiers Killed by Afghan Police Colleague (New York Times, July 2, 2012):

KABUL, Afghanistan — A member of a highly regarded, special Afghan police force opened fire on British soldiers during an argument, killing three of them as they left a meeting with elders in southern Afghanistan, Western and Afghan officials said Monday.

Once a rare occurrence, Afghan soldiers and police officers have attacked their American and allied counterparts with increasing frequency in recent years. The assaults have become common enough that they are widely referred to here in shorthand, as “green-on-blue” attacks.

Officials from the NATO-led coalition blame most of the violence on personal differences, not Taliban infiltration. Some fear that the distrust sown by such attacks is undermining a pillar of the Western exit strategy: preparing Afghan forces to fight on their own by pairing them closely with coalition troops.

So far this year, 26 coalition service members have been killed by Afghan policemen or soldiers, compared with 35 in all of last year, according to the coalition.

The latest shooting took place on Sunday in the southern province of Helmand, where the bulk of British forces in Afghanistan are based along with a large number of American Marines.

The coalition, as is its custom, released only the barest of details in a written statement late Sunday. It said three service members had been killed but did not specify the nationalities of the dead or where the violence took place. It also identified the attacker as a man “wearing an Afghan National Civil Order Police uniform,” leaving open the possibility that assailant was a Taliban infiltrator, not a colleague.

But a spokesman for Helmand provincial government, Daoud Ahmadi, said Monday that the attacker was a member of Civil Order Police and that he had died of wounds sustained in the firefight with British soldiers.

The Civil Order Police is national constabulary force that often helps support military operations. The force is considered by Western officials to be better trained and disciplined than the regular police force, which is riddled with corruption and drug abuse.

Britain’s Defense Ministry, said in a statement that the firefight between its soldiers and the Civil Order policeman had taken place at a checkpoint in the Nahr-e Sara district of Helmand. The soldiers were part of a team advising and training the police force, and they had traveled to the checkpoint from a larger base for a meeting with local elders, known in Afghanistan as a shura.

As they left the shura, the attacker opened fire, and the three were wounded gravely enough that they could not be saved by first aid delivered at the scene, the defense ministry said. The ministry did not identify the dead soldiers.

Col. Ghulam Sakhi, who commands Civil Order Police in Helmand, said the shooting, around 5 p.m., came at the end of an argument between British soldiers and Afghan police.

Both coalition and Afghan officials said that the attack was under investigation, although it was not clear whether each side was running its own inquiry or a joint effort was under way.

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