KABUL, Afghanistan — A man in a police uniform opened fire on U.S. and Afghan soldiers Monday at a base in eastern Afghanistan, killing two Americans in what may be the latest in a series of insider attacks by Afghans against allied security forces.
Afghan officials said three Afghan police officers also were killed in the shooting in Wardak, the strategically crucial province in eastern Afghanistan where President Hamid Karzai last month ordered U.S. special forces troops to cease operations.
U.S. military officials said it wasn’t immediately clear if the gunman was an Afghan police officer or posing as one. Afghan officials said that a gun battle ensued, with American soldiers firing back at the suspected attacker.
Americans and Afghan service members were wounded, said a member of the Wardak provincial council, Ramazan Ali Rasouli. He added that the gunman was wearing the uniform of the Afghan Local Police, a rural paramilitary force trained by U.S. special operations troops.
Most of the U.S. service members in Wardak are special operations troops, and the shooting came on the day that the elite forces were due to leave the province, under Karzai’s orders, following reports that they had abused civilians. U.S. officials believe that the allegations were politically motivated, and Afghan investigators say they have found no evidence to support the claims.
For now the commandos remain in Wardak, and American officials have been pressing Karzai to back off his demand. U.S. commanders see the special forces’ counterterrorism campaign against Taliban insurgents there as crucial to maintaining security in Kabul, just a short drive away.
Speaking to reporters over the weekend, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said he was “working with (Karzai’s) leadership to address the situation in Wardak and we would come back to him with a plan.”
U.S. officials declined to speculate on whether Monday’s shooting — which occurred about 11 a.m. at a joint U.S.-Afghan base in the remote district of Jalrez — was connected to the abuse allegations.
The attack followed the slaying on Friday of a NATO civilian contractor by gunmen in Afghan army uniforms.
Insider attacks spiked last year, with members of Afghan security forces killing 61 personnel from the U.S.-led NATO coalition, the vast majority of them Americans. U.S. military officials have said that some of the killings were carried out by Taliban infiltrators, but that many were the result of hostile feelings among Afghan soldiers and police toward coalition forces.
The attacks declined late last year after U.S. forces erected barriers between them and Afghans at shared bases, and began posting armed troops to stand guard when American service members interacted with Afghans. But special forces units like those in Wardak continue to conduct joint operations with Afghan troops and train members of the Afghan Local Police.