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U.S. Green Beret among those killed in Afghan attack

By Mark Morgenstein and Masoud Popalzai, CNN
March 12, 2013 -- Updated 0043 GMT (0843 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A Green Beret is one of two Americans killed in Afghanistan, a U.S. official says
  • Two Afghans also are killed; 10 more Americans are wounded, coalition officials say
  • The assailant is dead, a U.S. official says
  • It was first fatal "green-on-blue" attack on coalition troops in two months

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Two Americans -- one a Green Beret -- were killed Monday when an assailant wearing an Afghan National Security Forces uniform opened fire on the group, U.S. and NATO's International Security Assistance Force officials said.

The shootout in eastern Afghanistan didn't last long, as coalition forces "returned fire and killed the attacker," a U.S. official told CNN.

Two Afghan army personnel also were killed, said Gen. Zahir Azimi, an Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman. A U.S. military official told CNN that at least 10 Americans were wounded as well.

The assailant fired at the victims with a truck-mounted machine gun, Azimi said, after a meeting between coalition and Afghan forces at a military base in the Jalrez district of Wardak province, about an hour west of Kabul. Green Berets and Afghan forces are based there, a U.S. official said.

A spokesman for the Taliban, the militant group that once ruled Afghanistan, said the shooter was an Afghan police officer, but it's unclear if that was the case.

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A U.S. official said a variety of Afghan security forces -- including army, national police and perhaps local police -- were at a training-related meeting.

The incident appeared to be the latest "green-on-blue" attack, or strike against coalition members by people dressed in police or army uniforms. Assailants conducting similar subterfuge killed dozens of coalition troops in 2012.

On Friday, a coalition contractor in eastern Afghanistan was killed when people wearing Afghan uniforms turned their weapons against ISAF members, NATO said.

The last coalition soldier killed in a "green-on-blue" attack was a Briton, who was slain on January 7. And in the last similar fatal assault on U.S. troops, two Americans were killed October 25.

The coalition has been working to thwart such insider attacks.

Coalition soldiers are required to have a loaded weapon within reach at all times. In addition, the coalition ended training for hundreds of Afghan soldiers last year until the completion of background checks for insurgent links.

Most of the insider attacks are believed to be the result of Afghan soldiers suffering from combat or emotional stress, a Defense Department official told CNN in September after an especially deadly weekend for coalition troops.

Only about 15% of the "green-on-blue" attacks are believed to be the result of insurgent links, and about 10% come from infiltrators not affiliated with the military, the Defense Department official said.

The latest attack comes a day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai outraged the ISAF commander by contending there are "ongoing daily talks between Taliban, American and foreigners in Europe and in the Gulf states" and "that Taliban want longer presence of foreigners -- not their departure from Afghanistan."

U.S. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, who oversees the NATO-led force, said that's "categorically false."

"We have fought too hard over the past 12 years. We have shed too much blood over the past 12 years. We have done too much to help the Afghan Security Forces grow over the last 12 years to ever think that violence or instability would be to our advantage," Dunford said.

Newly installed U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited Afghanistan this weekend on his first overseas trip since his confirmation. Hagel told reporters he tried to reassure Karzai that the United States has no unilateral back-channel talks with the Taliban.

Hagel, Karzai meet after strained Afghan weekend

"Secretary Hagel addressed these questions directly with President Karzai in their meeting," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday. "The last thing we would do is support any kind of violence, particularly involving innocent civilians."

Carney noted that the United States and its coalition allies are staying the course with their stated policy to end the war that began in 2001 "because we were attacked from Afghanistan."

"We've drawn down the surge forces and we're winding down our troop presence in Afghanistan, as we build up Afghan security forces and turn over security lead to Afghan security forces. And that progress continues," he said.

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Journalist Masoud Popalzai reported from Kabul; CNN's Barbara Starr, Matt Smith, Wesley Bruer and Lindsey Knight contributed to this report, and Mark Morgenstein wrote it from Atlanta.

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