'Rogue' Afghan policeman kills five British troops



KABUL- A "rogue" Afghan policeman shot dead five British soldiers in Afghanistan Wednesday, raising new questions about the safety of coalition troops as world leaders work to boost training of local forces.
The Afghan attacker on Tuesday opened fire at a checkpoint in the Nad Ali district of southern Helmand province -- where the vast majority of Britain's nearly 9,000 troops are based -- before fleeing the scene.



'Rogue' Afghan policeman kills five British troops
The soldiers killed had been mentoring Afghan police and living at the checkpoint. Brown condemned the incident as "terrible and tragic".
"What we know is that the Taliban have claimed responsibility for this," Brown told lawmakers in London.
"It may be that the Taliban have used an Afghan police member or that they have infiltrated the Afghan police force," he added.
The killings underscored the increasing complexity of the eight-year war in Afghanistan, where Western military and political leaders have put NATO training of Afghan security forces as the heart of any future exit strategy.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen refused to budge on his stance that NATO training of Afghan security forces must lie at the heart of any future exit strategy.
"I consider this an isolated incident and it does not change my position," Rasmussen said in an interview with AFP.
The top US military officer said the US-led mission in Afghanistan could resemble the troop "surge" in Iraq, possibly allowing a drawdown of troops in about two years.
"The timeline we've talked about is actually in a sense if I were to use the surge in Iraq, in 2006-2007, look where we are right now, sort of apply the same kind of time line to Afghanistan as best we can tell," Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at an event in Washington.
A British military spokesman said initial reports suggested that the Afghan policeman fired without warning.
"It's our understanding that one individual Afghan National Policeman, possibly in conjunction with another, went rogue. His motives and whereabouts are unknown at this time," he said.
British opposition leader David Cameron said the attack raised serious questions about the safety of British troops mentoring Afghan security forces.
But Brown, echoing the NATO line, said training programmes were crucial because they showed that international forces were helping Afghanistan to manage its own affairs.
General Stanley McChrystal, commander of the more than 100,000 NATO and US troops in Afghanistan, said the incident was being investigated jointly with Afghan authorities.
"We will not let this event deter our resolve to building a partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces to provide for Afghanistan's future," the general said in a statement."
Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered an investigation and instructed interior ministry officials to "bring those responsible to justice".
Four of the soldiers were killed outright and a fifth died later of wounds, the NATO-run International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.
Six other soldiers were wounded, the statement added.
Three of the soldiers were from the Grenadier Guards and two were from the Royal Military Police.
The attack brings to 229 the number of British troops who have been killed since operations in Afghanistan began in October 2001. Of these, at least 193 were killed as a result of hostile action.
With 94 British soldiers now killed on active service this year -- 93 in Afghanistan and one in Iraq -- 2009 is the bloodiest year for the British armed forces since 1982 and the Falklands War with Argentina.
Brown has faced persistent questions over the scope and purpose of the British role in Afghanistan and whether troops were well-enough equipped.
Britain has around 9,000 troops based in troubled Helmand province, where they are battling Taliban insurgents. Brown has conditionally pledged another 500 troops for the mission.
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Thursday, November 5th 2009
AFP
           


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