7 U.S. Soldiers Wounded in Insider Attack in Afghanistan

Rod Nordland — New York Times June 17, 2017

Seven American soldiers were shot and wounded by an Afghan commando on Saturday, the second such insider attack in a week, according to Afghan officials.

The attack took place in the Afghan National Army 209th Corps headquarters at Camp Shaheen, in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. Col. Abdul Qahar Aram, spokesman for the 209th Corps, said an Afghan soldier had opened fire, wounding foreign soldiers in the garrison area of the camp. He said reports claiming the soldiers had been killed were false.

The United States military would confirm only that American soldiers were wounded in an insider attack that occurred there at about 2 p.m., and that an Afghan soldier had been killed and another wounded. The United States military also denied that any of its soldiers had been killed.

Another Corps spokesman, Maj. Nasratullah Jamshidi, said the attacker, an Afghan commando, had been shot at the scene and died on his way to a hospital.

So-called green-on-blue, or insider, attacks have been a recurring problem for the American-led coalition, most recently on June 10 in the Achin District of eastern Nangarhar Province, where American ground forces are helping Afghan special forces fight Islamic State extremists.

A commando participating in the joint operations opened fire on four of the Americans, killing three and wounding another. The Taliban claimed the commando had been an infiltrator, but Afghan officials said it appeared to have been the outcome of a personal dispute. Both Afghan and American officials have said the incident is under investigation.

Special forces soldiers in the Afghan Army, generally referred to as commandos, are much more highly trained than regular troops and work in proximity to American soldiers, including serving as partners in ground combat operations, as well as in training exercises.

So far this year, six American soldiers have been killed in combat in Afghanistan, all of them involved in the fight against the Islamic State in Nangarhar Province. Five of the six apparently were killed by their own side: the three on June 10 and two others in April were killed accidentally in an airstrike in the same area.

In two episodes in March, a total of 11 American soldiers were wounded by Afghan soldiers in green-on-blue attacks in Helmand Province, in southern Afghanistan, according to Afghan officials. Nonetheless, the incidence of such attacks has decreased greatly as American and other foreign forces have declined from a peak of 150,000 soldiers to about 14,000 now. In 2012, one-fourth of all coalition killings were carried out by Afghan insiders, according to American military officials.

The 209th Corps has been particularly troubled this year, and in April was the scene of the Afghan military’s biggest single loss of life in the past 16 years, when Taliban infiltrators entered Camp Shaheen and killed more than 160 soldiers, many of them unarmed.

The northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif is relatively peaceful compared with other parts of the country, and the forces’ readiness at the base appeared to be slack. The 209th Corps commander was fired, and Afghanistan’s minister of defense and Army chief of staff were forced out over the incident.

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