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Afghan commando kills special forces soldier: US training mission futile?

An American special forces soldier was killed this week by a US-trained Afghan commando, during a joint night raid operation. One-fifth of all NATO losses in 2012 are by Afghan troops. 

By Anna MulrineStaff writer / April 27, 2012

Afghan special forces demonstrate a raid for rescuing a hostage during a showing to NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, unseen, at the commando training center in Kabul, Afghanistan, in April 2012.

Musadeq Sadeq/AP

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Washington

The latest killing of a US soldier at the hands of an Afghan counterpart – this time of a US Special Operations Forces soldier by a US-trained Afghan commando – raises anew concerns about America’s ability to build a credible Afghan security force before 2014, when US combat forces are scheduled to leave the country. 

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In total, so-called green-on-blue killings now account for 20 percent of the 84 NATO casualties in 2012.

The fatal shooting during a joint night raid Thursday marks the first killing of a US Special Forces operative by one of the elite, highly trained Afghan commandos, who are meant to be more carefully vetted than their conventional force counterparts. Largely as a result, the commandos have been widely praised by US forces for their competence.

Indeed, Afghan special forces units earlier this month were tapped to take over responsibility for a key aspect of US strategy going forward – namely, the controversial night raids that have polarized the Afghan community. US commanders have emphasized that these raids, in particular, are key to the US strategy in Afghanistan. Insurgents do not have night vision technology, after all, and are particularly vulnerable to coalition force operations that take place in the dead of night, they say.

In this latest case, US forces shot and killed the Afghan commando perpetrator. Another Afghan commando and an interpreter were killed in the crossfire. The incident occurred in the violent Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan. 

Previously, Gen. John Allen, commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, has pointed to “the insider threat” facing US troops who train Afghan security forces. To combat it, Afghan government officials now put “counterintelligence operatives” inside their training programs for security forces, as well as “inside their recruiting centers and inside their ranks,” Allen said last month, “the idea being to spot and assess the potential emergence of an individual who could be an extremist or in fact a Taliban infiltrator.”

The Taliban claimed credit for the most recent shooting, as it does with most such “green on blue” shootings, US military officials say. “The Taliban of course takes credit for all of them, when in fact the majority are not ... a direct result of Taliban infiltration,” Allen hastened to add at the time.

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