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'Deep-Seated Animosity' Pits Afghan Troops Against NATO Trainers

Common Dreams staff

French soldiers carry the coffin of comrades shot dead by a man wearing an Afghan army uniform in eastern Kapisa province. Four French soldiers died. (Photograph: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

Afghan soldiers being trained by US and NATO forces are becoming increasingly frustrated by their western counterparts, according to a new study and evidence on the ground. 

Jon Boone reports for the Guardian in Kabul:

Mutual mistrust and contempt between local and foreign forces in Afghanistan that often borders on hatred is one of the main reasons why Afghan troops increasingly turn their guns on their Nato comrades, a damning report has found.

The research, commissioned by the US military, said American soldiers enrage their Afghan colleagues with what the report describes as extreme arrogance, bullying and "crude behaviour".

It also heavily criticised as "profoundly intellectually dishonest" the Nato claims that the killing of alliance troops by Afghan soldiers is extremely rare.


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The data suggests incidents such as the killing on Friday of four French soldiers "reflect a rapidly growing systemic homicide threat (a magnitude of which may be unprecedented between 'allies' in modern military history)".

It warned that the problem is now so serious that it is "provoking a crisis of confidence and trust among westerners training and working with Afghan National Security Forces" (ANSFs).

According to behavioural scientist Jeffrey Bordin's report, the number of attacks have been growing, with 26 incidents of killings or attempted killings since early 2007. Those attacks led to the deaths of 58 foreign personnel.

While some of these incidents involved Taliban infiltrators, Bordin believes many resulted from "deep-seated animosity, often stimulated by social and personal conflicts".

French troops are threatening to pull out of Afghanistan all together after four soldiers were recently killed. AFP reports:

President Nicolas Sarkozy warned Friday he may accelerate the French withdrawal from Afghanistan after an Afghan soldier shot dead four unarmed French troops during a sports session inside a base.

Sarkozy suspended French military training and joint combat operations with Afghan troops, and sent Defence Minister Gerard Longuet to probe an attack in which at least 15 French soldiers were also wounded, eight seriously.

The French role in the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan was already deeply unpopular at home and -- less than 100 days before presidential elections -- Sarkozy appeared to be preparing the ground for a rapid withdrawal.

Sarkozy's Socialist opponent and -- according to opinion polls -- the most likely victor in the poll, Francois Hollande, said that if he is elected he would order the 3,600-strong contingent home by the end of the year.

France was already concentrating on training Afghan forces and accompanying them in combat rather than leading its own offensives against Taliban rebels, so Friday's suspension of operations effectively halted its core role.


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