Afghan inside attack puts US troop deaths at 2,000

HEIDI VOGT RAHIM FAIEZ Associated Press Published:

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- An apparent insider attack by Afghan forces has killed a U.S. service member and a foreign civilian contractor with NATO, officials said Sunday. The shooting --the latest in a string of attacks on international troops by their Afghan allies -- marked the 2,000th U.S. troop death in Afghanistan over the long-running conflict.

A U.S. official confirmed that the service member killed was American. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the nationality of the dead had not yet been formally announced.

At least two Afghan soldiers were also killed in Saturday's attack at an Afghan army checkpoint in Wardak province, said Shahidullah Shahid, a provincial government spokesman.

An Afghan soldier turned his gun on the Americans and started shooting, Shahid said. He said the checkpoint was in Sayd Abad district, just outside a joint U.S.-Afghan base.

"Initial reports indicate that a misunderstanding happened between Afghan army soldiers and American soldiers," Shahid said. He said investigators had been sent to the site to try to figure out what happened.

An Afghan military spokesman declined to comment.

Afghan soldiers and policemen -- or militants in their uniforms -- have gunned down more than 50 foreign troops so far this year, eroding the trust between coalition forces and their Afghan partners. An equal number of Afghan policemen and soldiers also died in these attacks, giving them reason as well to be suspicious of possible infiltrators within their ranks.

The attacks are taking a toll on the partnership between international and Afghan forces, prompting the U.S. military to restrict operations with small-sized Afghan units earlier this month.

The close contact -- with coalition forces working side by side with Afghan troops as advisers, mentors and trainers -- is a key part of the U.S. strategy for putting the Afghans in the lead as the U.S. and other nations prepare to pull out their last combat troops at the end of 2014, just 27 months away.