Several NATO and Afghan soldiers were killed in Afghanistan on Monday, just hours after US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel left the country following a contentious weekend visit.
According to Reuters:
Several foreign and Afghan soldiers were killed in a so-called insider attack when a person in an Afghan military uniform turned his weapon on troops at a joint base in the restive east of the country, coalition forces said on Monday.
The attack took place as a deadline expired for U.S. special forces to quit the eastern province of Wardak, after Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused them and Afghans working for them of overseeing torture and killings in the area.
An Afghan interior ministry official said the attack took place in Jalriz district of Wardak. It was not immediately clear if it was directed at U.S. special forces.
The deadline in Wardak refers to an ultimatum given by Karzai that US and NATO soldiers leave the province following reports of torture, murder, and intimidation by units operating in the area.
Hagel's trip was book-ended by violence. A large bombing took place when he first arrived on Friday at the Afghan Ministry of Defense.
In addition, tensions between Karzai and the US were on display throughout the weekend. As the New York Times reports:
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The Afghan president’s discontent with his American allies has been a recurring theme over the past 10 years. Still, his condemnation now, at a critical moment for talks under way on the shape and scope of any American military presence here past 2014, has raised new questions about the two countries’ abilities to bridge their intensifying differences.
In recent days, Mr. Karzai has been the most critical about some of the policies that American officials have described as most important to their mission here, including the widespread use of Special Operations forces and a continuing say in how battlefield detainees are vetted and released. He has seized on both as violations of Afghan sovereignty, barring American commandos from Wardak Province and bristling at critical terms in a negotiated agreement on Bagram Prison.
A result was a last-minute refusal by American officials on Saturday to hand the Afghan government full control of the prison.
After the cancellation of a joint news conference on Sunday — American officials said security concerns were the cause, even as Afghan officials dismissed that claim — Mr. Hagel and Mr. Karzai met for private discussions and dinner. Later, Mr. Hagel said the two had had “a very direct conversation.”
The cacellation of the Sunday conference came just hours after Karzai accused US and Taliban forces of using one another to prolong the military confrotation in Afghanistan.
But as Informed Comment's Juan Cole describes:
Karzai was visibly angry about the Taliban bombing at the Ministry of Defense on Hagel’s arrival. In his Pashtu speech he said that the Taliban carried it out “in the service of America.” What he appears to have meant by [his] accusation is that the Taliban are eager to prevent a US withdrawal in 2014 and are attempting to draw the US into a greater entanglement in the country as a pretext for painting the Kabul government as lackeys of the Americans who need to be overthrown.