American Soldiers Gunned Down in Afghanistan in Insider Attack
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The United States’ relationship with Afghanistan faced new strains today. Two U.S. soldiers were killed in an insider attack following pointed accusations by Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the U.S. is colluding with the Taliban.
Tensions were evident everywhere today, from an American officer in Kabul yelling at troops who had mistakenly shot to death two civilians, to Wardak Province, where the Afghans had ordered all special U.S. forces to leave by yesterday. There, an Afghan policeman gunned down two American soldiers and two other police officers before being killed himself, all of this as newly confirmed Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel concluded his first trip to Afghanistan.
The visit was difficult from the start, a suicide bombing outside the Afghan Defense Ministry on Saturday as he met with NATO commanders nearby.
DEFENSE SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL, United States: I wasn’t sure what it was. I was in a briefing. But we’re in a war zone. I have been in a war. You know, so you shouldn’t be surprised when a bomb goes off of there’s an explosion.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Then, on Sunday, a verbal broadside from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, charging the U.S. had a role in the attacks.
PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI, Afghanistan: The bombs which exploded yesterday were to show Taliban strength to America. It was at the service of America, at the service of America. They are trying to frighten us into thinking that if the foreigners were not in Afghanistan, we would be facing these sorts of incidents.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All outside combat forces are to leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014. But Karzai claimed that, in fact, the U.S. is hunting for an excuse to stay longer.
Hagel met later with the Afghan leader and rejected accusations of fomenting violence or of dealing with the Taliban behind his back.
CHUCK HAGEL: I told the president it wasn’t true that the United States was unilaterally working with the Taliban in trying to negotiate anything. The fact is any prospect for peace or political settlements, that has to be led by the Afghans.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Further complicating matters is Bagram prison, which was to be turned over to Afghan control on Saturday. U.S. authorities delayed the transfer again, citing problems with the transfer agreement.
President Karzai has made regaining control of the prison a key issue as he seeks to assert greater Afghan authority.