Afghan security forces and police killed three NATO soldiers in two separate incidents Monday. Two of the soldiers killed were British and one was American. The latest "green on blue" attacks came as the top commander of the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan wrapped up a visit to Washington during which he sought to bolster confidence in the mission that has been shattered by a series of recent incidents, including the March 11 shooting rampage by a U.S. soldier that killed 17 Afghan civilians.
Two British soldiers "were gunned down by an Afghan soldier in front of the main gate of a joint civilian-military base in southern Afghanistan," the Associated Press reported Monday, citing the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan.
In a separate incident, a NATO service member "was shot by an alleged member of the Afghan Local Police" as the soldier approached a local police checkpoint in eastern Afghanistan, ISAF said in a statement, adding that the incident is being investigated. Later reports indicated the third soldier killed was American. Details on his nationality were withheld until his next of kin could be notified, a spokesman for the force, Col. Gary Kolb, told Yahoo News by email Monday.
Marine Gen. John Allen, the top commander of the mission in Afghanistan, speaking in Washington Monday, sought to downplay concern over the "green on blue" attacks (or those by Afghan security personnel), calling the incidents unfortunate but not unexpected. "On any occasion where you're dealing with an insurgency and where you're also growing an indigenous force ... the enemy's going to do all that they can to disrupt ... counterinsurgency operations," he told reporters at the Pentagon Monday.
But the spike in such attacks in recent weeks has contributed to a plummeting in American public support for the Afghanistan mission. A new poll released Monday by the New York Times/CBS News found that 68% of Americans think the war in Afghanistan is going somewhat badly or very badly, up sharply from the 42% who thought that in November. "The poll found that more than two-thirds of those surveyed — 69 percent — think that the United States should not be at war in Afghanistan," the New York Times wrote on the poll's findings.
The attacks have also raised alarm about the feasibility of a key element of the Obama administration's exit strategy for Afghanistan. Under a transition plan agreed to by President Barack Obama and NATO allies, U.S.-led forces plan to train some 350,000 Afghan army soldiers and police, and transition security responsibility to them in phases, as international forces withdraw from the country by the end of 2014.
The deaths Monday brought the total number of NATO service members killed by Afghan security forces and police this year to 16, and nine of those were American. An Associated Press tally Monday said that Afghan troops or police have killed 80 NATO service members since 2007, and 80 percent of those deaths have been in the past two years.
The U.S. military late last week formally charged Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales with 17 counts of premeditated murder along with others charges for the March 11 shooting incident that killed 17 Afghan civilians, including a pregnant woman and her unborn baby. Bales' wife, Karilyn, said Monday that her husband loves children, and she finds the crimes he's accused of "unbelievable," including that he killed nine children. "He would not do that," she told NBC's Today Show.
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