Three separate attacks in Afghanistan resulted in the death of 29 people by Monday morning. However, conflicting reports from the region make the events difficult to fully follow.
The deadliest attack occurred Sunday evening when insurgents killed 17 people attending a dance party in a southern Afghan village in Helmand Province. According to Afghan officials, an investigation into the attack is moving slowly due to their inability to reach the area, which is largely controlled by the Taliban. It remains unclear if the deaths were because of a local feud or that the party included males and females. Still, another theory is that those killed were government informers. The Taliban, largely blamed for the attack, denied responsibility.
Coalition forces in Afghanistan, 2008 (Photo: REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic)
Hours after the 17 were killed, the Taliban attacked an Afghan army post in the same area. Ten soldiers were killed in what may have been an “insider plot” involving some of the soldiers conspiring with the insurgents. Also Monday, two American soldiers were killed by an Afghan colleague, yet it is unclear if the shooting was intentional or accidental. According to Noman Hatefi, a spokesman for the Afghan army in eastern Afghanistan, the Afghan soldier discharged his weapon by accident after a group of U.S. and Afghan soldiers were attacked by insurgents. A U.S. Defense Department official, however, told the Associated Press that the Afghan soldier fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the Americans. Also making the incident appear intentional, according to a police official in the region, “A verbal argument erupted and fire was exchanged.”
So-called insider attacks involving Afghan soldiers have surged this year. Monday’s killing marks the 11th and 12th deaths of American soldiers by allies’ hands this month. Throughout 2012, 42 coalition members, mostly Americans, have been killed in insider attacks compared to the 35 such deaths in 2011 and 20 deaths the previous year. The increase in such attacks this year led NATO to recently order soldiers to carry loaded weapons at all times and for Afghan officials to launch their own preventative measures including deploying undercover intelligence officers.
This week’s first two attacks occurred in Helmand Province, the focus of President Barack Obama’s 33,000 troop surge in 2010. With all surge forces scheduled to return home by next month, attacks such as these put into question the Afghan government’s ability to rein in insurgents — within and outside its own security forces.