Clash Between Afghan, U.S. Troops Kills 5

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 30 2012 2:36 PM

Shootout Between Afghan, U.S. Troops Kills Two Americans and Three Afghans

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Afghan National Army soldiers take part in an exercise under the supervision of French soldiers in Kabul

Photo by JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/GettyImages

Just as joint operations between American and Afghan troops were supposed to be getting back to normal, there was another big setback this weekend when U.S. and Afghan troops appear to have turned their guns on each other, leaving five people dead. The shootout pushed the death toll of U.S. military and civilian personnel to the 2,000 mark. Although it’s evident that the exchange of fire illustrates how trust between U.S. and Afghan troops has broken down after a string of insider attacks, it’s far from clear what actually happened, reports the Wall Street Journal.

At first the NATO coalition had said the attack may have been the result of an insider attack, but later insisted that it may have been the result of a big misunderstanding that took place due to nearby insurgent gunfire, reports Reuters. Afghan officials say that the Americans seem to have attacked an Afghan National Army unit by mistake, but a “top coalition officer” said it was the Americans who were attacked first, reports the New York Times.

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It will likely take a couple of days to figure out with any certainty who fired the first shots, but the incident “illustrates how tense relations have become between international troops and their Afghan allies,” writes the Associated Press. More than 50 coalition troops, mostly Americans, have been killed by Afghan police or soldiers this year.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.