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Insider attack kills 1 American, wounds 2 more in southern Afghanistan

By CHAD GARLAND | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 7, 2018

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — One U.S. servicemember was killed and two other U.S. servicemembers were wounded Saturday in southern Afghanistan, in what NATO’s Resolute Support said was an apparent insider attack.

The wounded service members were in stable condition and were being treated, a coalition statement said late Saturday.

UPDATE | Soldier killed in apparent insider attack is identified

The name of the slain servicemember was being withheld, pending notification of next of kin. The death marks the third U.S. fatality in Afghanistan this year.

Officials would not say where in southern Afghanistan the attack occurred. However, the Taliban spokesman said on Twitter that the attack occurred in Uruzgan province.

“I am going to let the next of kin notification process work before releasing any additional details,” said Army Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, a coalitions spokesman in Kabul, via email.

Two of the largest concentrations of the hundreds of U.S. troops in the south are in Helmand province, where a contingent of mostly Marines is building up the Afghan army’s capabilities, and Kandahar province, where mostly Air Force troops are helping build up an Afghan air wing.

The incident is under investigation, officials said. Following any insider attack, Resolute Support uses Joint Casualty Assessment Teams to quickly determine the causes and motivation of an attack and to identify any lessons learned to disseminate throughout the NATO command.

Insider attacks were a major problem in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2012. They declined as major combat operations drew to a close in 2014, but a Pentagon report to Congress late last year said the threat of such attacks could rise with the "explosive growth in personnel" in the Afghan ranks, as NATO builds up the country’s military, particularly its air force.

As a result, U.S. forces and the Afghan government have recently intensified their efforts to reduce the number of such attacks through enhanced screening for Afghan troops and new recruits, and through improved force protection training and procedures, according to the report, titled “Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan.”

“Although it is impossible to mitigate all risk to U.S. personnel, coalition advisors assess that current force protection measures have been successful in limiting insider attacks,” said the latest edition of that report, released last week.

There were no insider attacks against U.S. troops from Dec. 1, 2017 to May 31, 2018, according to the report. That's down from two attacks that wounded American troops in Helmand during the same period a year earlier. A total of six insider attacks in Afghanistan killed or wounded Americans in 2017.

Last summer, an Afghan commando claimed the lives of three soldiers from the Fort Campbell, Kentucky-based 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). That attack occurred in Nangarhar’s Peka Valley.

Less than a week later, seven U.S. soldiers were shot and wounded by an Afghan commando in an attack at Camp Shaheen in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

O’Donnell said the last “green-on-blue” attack before Saturday’s incident occurred in August of last year. A Romanian soldier was injured in that attack.

Meanwhile, in the past year, Afghan forces have seen a hike in attacks from within their own formations, also known as "green-on-green" attacks.

There were 47 such attacks in the six months that ended in May, a 50-percent increase over the same period last year. There were 15 green-on-green attacks in the six months ending in November, a 40-percent increase over the same period a year earlier.

garland.chad@stripes.com
Twitter: @chadgarland

 

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