Afghan Teen Shoots and Kills Three Marines Inside US Base
August 18, 2012
Kevin Sieff / The Washington Post
The teenage assailant who killed three Marines last week on a US military base in southern Afghanistan had easy access to the weapons arsenal of the Afghan police. He was in near-constant contact with US troops, often when they were without their guns and body armor.
Attacks on NATO Troops by Afghan Security Forces
Deadly Insider Attack that Left 3 US Marines Dead Was Work of an Afghan Teenager
Kevin Sieff / The Washington Post
KABUL (August 17, 2012) -- The teenage assailant who killed three Marines last week on a US military base in southern Afghanistan had easy access to the weapons arsenal of the Afghan police. He was in near-constant contact with US troops, often when they were without their guns and body armor.
But although Aynoddin, 15, lived among American and Afghan security forces, he was not a soldier or a police officer. He had never been vetted. According to US and Afghan officials, his role on base was hardly formal: He was the unpaid, underage personal assistant of the district police chief.
Officials say a newly-recruited Afghan police officer opened fire with his official weapon, minutes after US service members gave it to him. Two Americans were killed in this incident. Another shooting wounded two foreign troops.
Officials would later learn that the quiet, willowy boy was also working for the insurgency.
As US troops depart from Afghanistan, American military strategy increasingly hinges on small teams of advisers who live and work with Afghan soldiers and police officers. But those teams -- like the one that Aynoddin attacked last week -- put themselves at the mercy of often-shoddy Afghan security standards, which permit individuals to live on shared bases without proper scrutiny.
There have been 28 so-called "insider attacks" this year, resulting in the deaths of 39 coalition troops -- a full 13 percent of those killed in Afghanistan in 2012. Among the dead are 23 Americans. The attacks continued Friday, when an Afghan Local Police officer shot and killed two US troops during a training exercise in the western province of Farah.
NATO officials have long claimed that the majority of such attacks are the products of personal disputes. But last week's shooting was believed to have come from a different, more troubling source: a young Taliban convert who exploited his access to carry out what insurgent leader Mohammad Omar boasted Thursday is a deliberate plan to drive a wedge between foreign and Afghan forces.
Aynoddin should never have been on the base in the first place, because Afghan and US security standards would not have allowed it. But those standards are often violated -- especially by the country's nascent police force.
"We have to have better leadership out of our Afghan leaders. There are some things they need to step up to the plate and do now better than they've done," said Marine Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus, the top US commander in southwestern Afghanistan. "They need to be looking in the eyes of their subordinate commanders and holding them accountable for these people who are in and out of police stations."
Aynoddin, who, like many Afghans, uses only one name, was in high school when he started work for Garmsir's police chief, Sarwar Jan, in the southern province of Helmand. He spent his days cooking for Jan and cleaning up after him. Both Afghans and Americans knew him as the boss's "tea boy."
At 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 10,, three weeks after he arrived at a joint US-Afghan base called Delhi, the boy stole a Kalashnikov rifle that was lying in an unlocked barracks, according to police officers on the base. He walked to a gym where four unarmed Marines were exercising and held down the trigger until no bullets were left. When he was finished, three Marines were dead and one was badly injured.
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