US soldiers killed in Afghan 'insider attack'

The killing of three American soldiers by an Afghan counterpart comes as the Trump administration discusses whether to send thousands of additional US and coalition troops to the country.

JALALABAD (Afghanistan) • An Afghan commando who opened fire on American troops killed three of them and wounded another, United States and Afghan officials said, in an insider attack that was claimed by the Taleban.

The incident happened on Saturday during a joint operation in the volatile Achin district in eastern Afghanistan, where US special operations forces are fighting alongside Afghan forces against Taleban insurgents and fighters aligned with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The commando was killed in the return fire.

The so-called "green-on-blue" attack is the latest in a line of incidents where Afghan soldiers have turned their weapons on international forces they are working with.

It also comes as the Taleban ramp up their campaign against the Western-backed government in Afghanistan, and as US President Donald Trump mulls sending more troops into the lengthy conflict.

The Pentagon said the families of the three dead soldiers were being informed. "One US soldier was wounded and has been evacuated for medical treatment," a spokesman added. "This incident is under investigation."

The Taleban has claimed responsibility for the deaths, saying the attack was carried out by an infiltrator.

In April, the US military dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat on a complex of caves in Achin used by ISIS fighters. The deployment of the so-called Mother Of All Bombs killed dozens of militants but fighting in the area has continued.

American troops have partnered with Afghan soldiers in raids against ISIS Khorasan, claiming the local offshoot of the militant group is steadily losing ground in Afghanistan.

Green-on-blue attacks have been a major problem during Nato's long years fighting alongside Afghan forces. Western officials say most insider attacks stem from personal grudges and cultural misunderstandings rather than insurgent plots.

Saturday's attack came just hours after an errant US air strike killed and wounded at least six Afghan policemen in southern Helmand province.

Such strikes have bred deep mistrust between local and foreign forces.

Three US troops were wounded in March when an Afghan soldier opened fire in Helmand, in the first known insider attack on international forces this year.

The Afghan conflict is the longest in American history, with US-led Nato troops at war there since 2001, after the ousting of the Taleban regime.

US troops in Afghanistan number about 8,400 today, and there are another 5,000 from Nato allies, who mainly serve in a training and advisory capacity.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2017, with the headline 'US soldiers killed in Afghan 'insider attack''. Print Edition | Subscribe