An Afghan policeman turned his weapon on U.S. troops today, killing two soldiers in Western Afghanistan, the latest incident in a deadly two-week span for U.S. forces.
Nineteen U.S. troops and one aid worker have been killed in Taliban attacks in the past two weeks, nine of them shot to death in cold blood by rogue Afghan soldiers or policemen.
Today's incident took place in the western province of Farah, far from the insurgent hotbeds in the country's south and east. U.S. forces had come to the village of Kinisk as part of a mission to train members of the Afghan Local Police, or ALP. The ALP differs from the Afghan National Police in that they are recruited primarily to provide security for local villages and regions that are far from bigger towns and cities.
In this case, the alleged shooter, identified as Mohammed Ismail, a man in his 30s, was killed in a return exchange of gunfire. It's believed he signed up for the ALP five days ago, according to a local police commander.
In the past, the ALP has been heavily criticized for poor training, corruption, heavy-handed tactics and long-standing links to criminal organizations.
Today's incident comes on the heels of a warning from Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Omar. Omar, who's blind in one eye and widely believed to be living in the lawless border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, issued the warning as part of his annual Eid message to Afghans. Eid is the holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan, a month where Muslims fast from dawn unitl dusk.
"Mujahideen [fighters] have cleverly infiltrated in the ranks of the enemy," Omar wrote in a seven-page announcement, posted on the Taliban's website.
"They are able to enter bases, offices and intelligence centers of the enemy. Then, they easily carry out decisive and coordinated attacks."
At least 36 foreign troops have been killed this year in "green-on-blue" attacks. The Taliban often claim responsibility for the attacks, and a recent video produced by their multimedia wing showed a rogue Afghan soldier receiving a hero's welcome after killing two US soldiers.
In his own Eid message to Afghans, U.S. General John Allen, commander of all NATO troops in Afghanistan, took direct aim at Omar.
"Mullah Omar has issued an unmistakable message of death, hate and hopelessness for the Afghan people," Allen said.
"The pride of the Afghan people has been smeared by killers who pose as soldiers and police, yet they represent the worst of humanity. Today, the Afghan Army and National Police are trying to build a better future for the Afghan people, yet Omar wants to stop these efforts.
"Coalition forces are here to help the people; we have no other reason for being here, other than to make Afghanistan a stable country, founded on educated and healthy citizens."