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US not reporting all Afghan attacks

world Updated: May 01, 2012 07:57 IST

AP
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The military is under-reporting the number of times that Afghan soldiers and police open fire on American and other foreign troops.

The US-led coalition routinely reports each time an American or foreign solider is killed by an Afghan in uniform. But The Associated Press has learned it does not report insider attacks in which the Afghan wounds, or misses, his US or allied target. It also does not report the wounding of troops who were attacked alongside those who were killed.

Such attacks reveal a level of mistrust and ill will between the US-led coalition and its Afghan counterparts in an increasingly unpopular war. The US and its military partners are working more closely with Afghan troops in preparation for handing off security responsibility to them by the end of 2014.

In recent weeks an Afghan soldier opened fire on a group of American soldiers but missed the group entirely. The Americans quickly shot him to death. Not a word about this was reported by the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, as the coalition is formally known. It was disclosed to the AP by a US official who was granted anonymity in order to give a fuller picture of the "insider" problem.

ISAF also said nothing about last week's attack in which two Afghan policemen in Kandahar province fired on US soldiers, wounding two. Reporters learned of it from Afghan officials and from US officials in Washington. The two Afghan policemen were shot to death by the Americans present.

Just last Wednesday, an attack that killed a US Army special forces soldier, Staff Sgt Andrew T Brittonmihalo, 25, also wounded three other American soldiers. The death was reported by ISAF as an insider attack, but it made no mention of the wounded, or that an Afghan civilian also was killed.

The attacker was an Afghan special forces soldier who opened fire with a machine gun at a base in Kandahar province. He was killed by return fire.

That attack apparently was the first by a member of the Afghan special forces, who are more closely vetted than conventional Afghan forces and are often described by American officials as the most effective and reliable in the Afghan military.

Coalition officials do not dispute that such non-fatal attacks happen, but they have not provided a full accounting.

The insider threat has existed for years but has grown more deadly. Last year there were 21 fatal attacks that killed 35 coalition service members, according to ISAF figures. That compares with 11 fatal attacks and 20 deaths the previous year. In 2007 and 2008 there were a combined total of four attacks and four deaths.