The Afghan soldier who opened fire on French troops yesterday was recruited by the Taliban to work against international forces, the rebel group has reportedly claimed.
Four French soldiers were killed and around 15 wounded in the attack, which prompted President Nicolas Sarkozy to suspend all of France's training operations in Afghanistan and threaten an early withdrawal of its forces.
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Today, a spokesman for the Taliban – which also calls itself the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – seemed to suggest that the Afghan soldier responsible had been working for them. Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters:
"The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has recruited people in important positions.
"Some of them have already accomplished their missions."
The Afghan National Army, in which the shooter served, said it could not confirm the claim. The gunman is currently being questioned.
The Taliban is often quick to claim credit for such attacks, according to the Los Angeles Times, which allows the rebels both to stir dissent among rank-and-file troops and boost their standing with Afghan civilians.
Given that the Taliban's goal is to force foreign troops out of Afghanistan, this incident – and France's response – stands to play directly into their hands, the Times said.
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Similar attacks in the past have usually been portrayed as isolated incidents, sparked by individual disputes. However, their relative frequency – yesterday's shooting was the second of its kind in a month – has led to fears that the Taliban may have infiltrated the forces that are supposed to ensure Afghanistan's security.
A classified NATO report obtained by the New York Times stated that at least 58 Western service members were killed in 26 separate attacks by Afghan soldiers and the police nationwide between May 2007 and May 2011. From the Times:
"The sense of hatred is growing rapidly," said an Afghan Army colonel. He described his troops as "thieves, liars and drug addicts," but also said that the Americans were "rude, arrogant bullies who use foul language."
According to Reuters, NATO has previously voiced suspicions of an insider threat, but has also pointed to stress, lack of discipline and divided loyalties within Afghanistan's newly formed armed forces.
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