The Two-Way
8:16 am
Sun September 16, 2012

Four U.S. Troops Killed In Afghanistan; NATO Strike Kills 8 Afghan Women

Originally published on Mon September 17, 2012 6:56 am

Four U.S. service members were killed by an Afghan police officer and a NATO airstrike killed eight women in separate attacks in Afghanistan on Sunday.

NATO says the attack on the coalition troops occurred at a remote checkpoint in southern Afghanistan. The Afghan officer escaped after the incident. Eight NATO troops have been killed in similar insider attacks over the past three days.

Here's more from The Associated Press about the recent attacks:

"Recent months have seen a string of such insider attacks by Afghan forces against their international counterparts. The killings have imperiled the military partnership between Kabul and NATO, a working relationship that is key to the handover of security responsibilities to Afghan forces as international troops draw down."

Afghan officials also said an alliance airstrike killed eight women who were gathering firewood in a remote eastern village before dawn Sunday. NATO said 45 insurgents, and no civilians were killed. The alliance did say it was investigating the claims of civilian casualties, the AP reported.

Sarhadi Zewak, a spokesman for the provincial government, told the AP that villagers from Laghman province's Alingar district brought the eight bodies to the governor's office in the provincial capital.

"They were shouting 'Death to America!' They were condemning the attack," he told the AP.

Provincial health director Latif Qayumi told the AP seven injured females were brought to area hospitals for treatment. He said some of them were as young as 10.

Update at 8:30 a.m.: More Details On Deaths Of U.S. Service Members

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson tells Linda Wertheimer, host of Weekend Edition Sunday, that the Americans were on patrol in Zabul Province, on the border with Pakistan.

Here's what she says:

"And apparently, what Western officials say is that they were several hundred feet away from what they thought were friendly forces when they opened fire. Four American service members were killed and a number of others were wounded. But the Afghan officials in Zabul province, including the deputy police chief that we spoke to, says that it was only one Afghan policeman who opened fire and that the Americans had actually gone to a checkpoint to assist 15 Afghan policemen who were saying they were under some kind of 'security threat.' They also mentioned that five other Afghan policemen are at large."

Soraya notes that at least 51 international troops have died this year at the hands of Afghan security forces or people posing in uniform.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. We are following reports of deadly attacks today in Afghanistan. Four American service members were killed when Afghan policemen opened fire on them. And in a separate incident, a NATO airstrike aimed at insurgents also killed civilians - reportedly eight women and girls. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson joins us from Kabul with more on today's news. Soraya, first, to today's attacks. What more can you tell us about the attack that killed the American troops?

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: The Americans were on patrol in a very volatile province called Zabul. It's borders Pakistan. It's in the southern part of the country. And apparently, what Western officials say is that they were several hundred feet away from what they thought were friendly forces when they opened fire. Four American service members were killed and a number of others were wounded. But the Afghan officials in Zabul Province, including the deputy police chief that we spoke to, says that it was only one Afghan policeman who opened fire and that the Americans had actually gone to a checkpoint to assist 15 Afghan policemen who were saying they were under some kind of, quote, "security threat." They also mentioned that five other Afghan policemen are at large. So, this is the latest in a series of these insider attacks - at least 51 international troops have died this year at the hands of Afghan security forces or people posing in uniform.

WERTHEIMER: What are Afghan and U.S. officials doing to try to prevent that from happening?

NELSON: Well, the international troops are taking a lot more precautions in their joint operations and joint endeavors with the Afghan security forces. For one, they have to keep a loaded weapon on themselves at all times at this stage. There are also service members from the international force - their duty to sort of monitor when the Afghans and the Westerners are together. On top of that, you have a lot of these security forces being revetted by Afghan officials. And so, there have been these precautions taken. But in the end, when you have 350,000 Afghan security forces dealing with so many - tens of thousands of coalition troops, it's very difficult to ensure everyone's safety all the time.

WERTHEIMER: Soraya, what about the NATO attack? They were going after insurgents but Afghan officials said they hit civilians. What more can you tell us?

NELSON: Well, this occurred in Laghman Province, which is near Kabul. And what happened, according to Afghan officials in that province, is that women and young girls had gone out to collect firewood and brush in the morning and that they were attacked by NATO planes. Now, the Afghan officials say that eight women and girls were killed, and the bodies were in fact brought to the district center to show them. Several more were wounded. The NATO-led coalition is saying that their target on this morning was in fact insurgents but that they are investigating that they in fact may have killed between five and eight civilians. They also expressed great sorrow over this, whether they are responsible or not. But the investigation is continuing.

WERTHEIMER: Now, and you've also learned more about Friday's attack on the British-run base that killed two American soldiers. It seems the insurgents were able to inflict quite a bit of damage on that base.

NELSON: Yes. It was quite a severe attack. But what basically happened, NATO was saying that 15 militants organized themselves into three teams. They were wearing U.S. Army uniforms. They breached a perimeter fence, they targeted the airfield and went after planes and helicopters. And they were able to destroy six Harrier AV-8B jets. Each of these jets cost $25 million apiece. Sadly, two U.S. Marines were killed and eight other troops were wounded. And NATO is still looking into this. It's a very, very apparently complex attack. And how these 15 militants were able to get in, you know, that close to this very secure area is something that they're still looking into.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Kabul. Soraya, thank you very much.

NELSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.