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Terrorism & Security

Another insider? Uniformed Afghan suicide bomber kills 14 (+video)

After a heavy weekend of violence, a suicide bomber wearing a police uniform attacked NATO and Afghan forces, killing at least 14 on Monday in the southeastern town of Khost.

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Regardless of the nature of Saturday's incident, it comes amid a recent spate of insider attacks that have raised public concerns over US and NATO partnerships with locals in Afghanistan. The Christian Science Monitor reported yesterday that while the US has seen a consistent drop in the rate of fatalities starting last year, attacks by Afghan soldiers and police on NATO forces have become a high-profile problem with no obvious solution.

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Europe Editor

Arthur Bright is the Europe Editor at The Christian Science Monitor.  He has worked for the Monitor in various capacities since 2004, including as the Online News Editor and a regular contributor to the Monitor's Terrorism & Security blog.  He is also a licensed Massachusetts attorney.

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“It gets at the very core of trust between coalition forces and the Afghans, and it’s very difficult to counter,” says David Barno, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security who commanded US and international forces in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005.

Citing findings that show insurgent infiltration accounts for only a quarter of insider attacks, with personal disputes accounting for another quarter and the rest having unclear motivations, Mr. Barno says stopping the attacks will be difficult.

“You can come up with a counter-intelligence program and take a number of other measures to help find Taliban infiltrators, but if three out of four attacks are related to cultural misunderstandings, outbursts, or friction perhaps related to 11 years of exposure between the coalition and Afghans that’s much more perplexing and much more difficult to deal with,” he says.

In an interview with 60 Minutes recorded before Monday's attack, Gen. John Allen, the top US commander in Afghanistan, expressed his frustration about insider attacks and warned that more should be expected.

Lara Logan: You're in a tough spot right now. Can you explain why the sudden increase in these attacks?

Allen: Well, I'm mad as hell about them, to be honest with you. We're going to get after this. It reverberates everywhere, across the United States. You know, we're willing to sacrifice a lot for this campaign. But we're not willing to be murdered for it.

Lara Logan: At a certain point, if these attacks continue, the American people are going to say, "We've had enough." Right? "Why are we training these people if they're murdering us?"

Allen: Well, that may be, in fact. It may be the voice right now that we're hearing. The key point is for us to understand that the vast majority, the vast majority of the Afghans, and you've lived with them, you understand these people, they're with us in this. They understand right now the severity of this problem and the urgency of what's happening. And there have been Afghans who've been killed trying to save our forces when these attacks have been underway. Because that was the only reaction that they could've taken, was to try to save us at that moment of attack. ...

Lara Logan: Should Americans brace themselves for more attacks? Is this going to continue?

Allen: It will. The enemy recognizes this is a vulnerability. You know, in Iraq, the signature weapon system that we hadn't seen before was the IED. We had to adjust to that. Here, I think the signature attack that we're beginning to see the – is going to be the insider attack.

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