Gunman opens fire on NATO troops in Afghanistan

Slobodan Lekic – Associated Press December 26, 2011

Afghanistan—A gunman wearing an Afghan army uniform opened fire on coalition troops in western Afghanistan, military authorities said Monday. An official said several NATO troops were wounded in the shooting and the gunman was killed.

NATO and Afghan authorities were investigating the shooting, which took place Saturday at an outpost in Bala Boluk district, about 340 miles (700 kilometers) west of Kabul, said Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi.

A NATO statement said there were no fatalities among alliance soldiers, adding that it was its policy not to comment on other casualties. An official who asked not to be named because the investigation is ongoing said several coalition troops were wounded in the shooting. He said the man who opened fire was later killed by the NATO troops.

If the probe confirms the gunman was a soldier, the shooting would be the latest in a series of attacks by Afghans against coalition partners. Those shootings have raised fears of Taliban infiltration as NATO speeds up the training of Afghan security forces.

The expansion of the army and police is a critical element in NATO’s exit strategy from Afghanistan.

Coalition troops are to end their combat role in 2014, and the goal is to have 195,000 trained Afghan troops in service by next October. Afghan security forces have already started taking the lead in several regions as part of the process that will put them in charge of security across the nation by the end of 2014.

Commanders of NATO’s training mission have said that coalition and Afghan forces keep a sharp eye out for possible Taliban infiltrators at the recruitment, training and deployment stages.

Military officials estimate the number of insurgents at between 20,000 and 25,000 men. Although outnumbered, the Taliban have mounted a series of high-profile attacks that have brought into question NATO’s claim that it has the upper hand in the war and that violence is decreasing.

A Taliban statement said on Monday that the insurgents were confident of victory and that the NATO forces would face the same fate as the Soviet invaders who withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989 after an almost decade-long war.

The insurgents “are successfully withstanding all the coalition forces led by the U.S. invaders and will make them all face the same fate that befell the Red Army,” said the statement marking the 32nd anniversary of the Soviet invasion in 1979.

Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez contributed to this report.