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Terrorism & Security

British soldier killed in latest 'insider attack' in Afghanistan (+video)

The shooting highlights concerns about the Afghan National Army's ability to assume responsibility for security as international troops begin their drawdown.

By Staff writer / January 8, 2013

NATO and Afghan forces inspect at the site of suicide attack in Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province on Sunday. A british soldier was killed when a man wearing an Afghan National Army uniform opened fire on fellow Afghan troops and British coalition forces in Helmand Province on Monday, in the first insider attack of 2013.

Ahmad Nadeem/Reuters

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Middle East Editor

Ariel Zirulnick is the Monitor's Middle East editor, overseeing regional coverage both for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She is also a contributor to the international desk's terrorism and security blog. 

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A man wearing an Afghan National Army uniform opened fire on on fellow Afghan troops and British coalition forces in Helmand Province yesterday, killing at least one British soldier in the first insider attack of 2013. The shooting shines the spotlight once again on concerns about the Afghan National Army's ability to assume responsibility for security as international troops begin their drawdown.

A slew of such incidents, as international coalition troops have started shifting responsibility to the Afghan Army, prompted NATO to step up its screening of applicants to the Army, but the attacks have continued – 45 incidents in 2012 alone, up from 21 in 2011, according to the Associated Press.

BBC reports that all six of the British soldiers who have been killed in the past six months died in "green-on-blue" insider incidents, which accounted for the deaths of more than 60 NATO personnel overall in 2012.

The attack comes just as Afghan President Hamid Karzai has arrived in Washington to talk with President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton about the future of Afghanistan

Although the Taliban claimed to be behind the attack, Afghan officials are skeptical of the group's involvement, telling the BBC that the Taliban often falsely claim responsibility for such attacks.

The Telegraph reports that the another Army soldier said that the attacker joined up a year ago and came from the eastern province of Laghman. The soldier said that the attacker acted as an "imam" for the Afghan troops, leading prayers for them. He was killed after opening fire.

Almost all the British forces have been concentrated in the southern province of Helmand, where the attack took place, according to the Associated Press, which dubs it the country's most violent.

The Monitor's Tom Peter reported in September that the insider attacks – and the "insurgent infiltration they represent" – threaten Afghanistan's longterm stability as international troops prepare for the 2014 withdrawal. 

“The issue of green on blue attacks is not only a tragic issue for international forces and Afghan forces right now, but post-2014 this could change into the collapse of one or many of government institutions in various districts and provinces,” says Waliullah Rahmani, executive director of the Kabul Center for Strategic Studies. “There might be a risk of many elements of the Taliban and insurgency or people who are loyal to them who spy for these groups inside the Afghan government.”

Mr. Peter also reported earlier in the year, after an Afghan police officer killed nine of his colleagues while they were sleeping, that the rapid expansion of the Afghan security forces may be partly to blame, as proper vetting fell off in the rush to fill out the Army's ranks.

Waheed Mujhda, an independent analyst in Kabul, says that one of the main problems may stem from the eagerness of the international community and the Afghan government to rapidly expand the size of Afghan security forces, without properly vetting candidates.

“During this process they never pay attention to the background of everyone who comes to the Afghan forces,” he says.

The Pentagon released a report to Congress last month that indicated only 1 in 23 Afghan Army brigades was ready to operate on its own without support from the US, according to the Washington Post.

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