KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan soldier killed three British service members with gunfire and a rocket-propelled grenade in the dead of night, a betrayal that highlights the difficulties in rapidly building up Afghan security forces so that foreign troops can go home.
The soldier fled after carrying out the attack in southern Afghanistan early Tuesday, leaving his motive unclear. But the Taliban claimed that he was a militant sympathizer who was taken in by insurgents after the assault — one which could further weaken support in Britain for an unpopular war that has now taken the lives of 317 Britons.
In London, Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the killings as "appalling" but insisted the attack should not change NATO's strategy of working alongside the Afghan army. Four other British service members were wounded in the attack on a base in Nahr-i-Saraj district of Helmand province that is home to members of the 1st Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles.
It was the second time in eight months that an Afghan turned against British troops working with local security forces. In November, an Afghan policeman killed five British soldiers at a checkpoint in Helmand.
Afghan police in the past have also attacked American soldiers and their own police stations, though such intentional attacks are rare.
Still, Tuesday's attack comes at a time when the international coalition is ramping up training of Afghan soldiers and police officers so they can ultimately take responsibility for securing and defending the nation. The speed with which Afghan security forces are growing has raised concerns about infiltration by the Taliban and the professionalism of the recruits.