Afghan police officer kills troops

KABUL — An Afghan police officer on a joint patrol with American troops in a province near Kabul, the capital, turned his gun on U.S. soldiers, killing two of them, Afghan officials said Saturday.

American military officials confirmed the deaths but said, without elaborating, that they had occurred in a firefight. Afghan officials said two other U.S. troops were injured in the shooting, according to the Associated Press.

Instances of members of Afghan security forces opening fire on their U.S. allies are rare, but when they occur, they fuel fears that insurgents have managed to infiltrate the ranks of the Afghan police and army.

Afghan and U.S. troops work in concert across large swaths of the country, with the aim of handing responsibility for safeguarding the public to Afghan police officers and soldiers, in lieu of the tens of thousands of foreign troops now in the country. Incidents like this one, though, tend to generate poisonous mistrust on both sides, undermining the larger goal of a security transition that is crucial to the exit strategies of Western governments. A number of NATO allies are already questioning their troop commitments here.

An additional U.S. soldier died Friday of wounds suffered earlier in a separate incident in Wardak province, the U.S. military said Saturday.

The steady pace of violence comes as the Obama administration is wrestling with the question of whether to commit more troops to the Afghan conflict, as the top U.S. commander here, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has urged. Fighting dropped off somewhat during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which ended late last month, but summer was the most lethal interlude for Western forces since the start of the Afghan conflict, now entering its ninth year.

The continuing fighting comes against a backdrop of political turmoil following Afghanistan's inconclusive Aug. 20 presidential election. That vote, intended to bolster public confidence in the democratic process, has degenerated into angry quarrels over allegations of massive election fraud.