KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan police killed four American soldiers coming to their aid after a checkpoint attack Sunday, the third assault by government forces or insurgents disguised in military uniforms in as many days.
The escalating violence — including a NATO airstrike that killed eight Afghan women and girls gathering firewood — is straining the military partnership between Kabul and NATO as the U.S. begins to withdraw thousands of troops.
The attacks drew unusually strong criticism Sunday from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, who called the problem of rogue Afghan soldiers and police turning their guns on allied troops "a very serious threat" to the war effort.
This year, 51 international service members have died at the hands of their Afghan allies or those who have infiltrated their ranks. At least 12 such attacks came in August alone, leaving 15 dead.
The surge in insider attacks is a sign of how security has deteriorated as NATO prepares its military exit from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. The U.S. is days away from completing the first stage of its own drawdown, withdrawing 33,000 troops.
NATO and U.S. forces are working with the Afghan government to tighten vetting procedures and increase security between the forces, but nothing has so far been able to stem the attacks on troops, which NATO frequently asserts are standing "shoulder by shoulder."
In remarks to the American Forces Press Service, Dempsey said the Afghan government needs to take the problem as seriously as do U.S. commanders and officials.
"We're all seized with (the) problem," said Dempsey. "You can't whitewash it. We can't convince ourselves that we just have to work harder to get through it. Something has to change."
A weekend of deadly attacks began Friday night, when 15 insurgents disguised in U.S. army uniforms killed two Marines, wounded nine other people and destroyed six Harrier fighter jets at a major U.S. base in the south, military officials said. On Saturday, a gunman in the uniform of a government-backed militia force shot dead two British soldiers in Helmand province.