KABUL, Afghanistan— A man in an Afghan army uniform opened fire outside a NATO base in eastern Afghanistan, wounding five American soldiers, an Afghan police official said Wednesday.
The number of insider attacks against foreign forces in Afghanistan has increased this year, undermining the trust between allies and efforts to prepare Afghan troops to take over their own security as international combat troops prepare to withdraw.
The U.S.-led coalition confirmed in a statement that a number of its service members were shot and wounded by a man in an Afghan army uniform Tuesday in Wardak province's Sayed Abad district. It said Wednesday that the service members were being treated at a medical facility but did provide details.
The coalition maintains a large base there, but NATO did not say where in the district the attack took place or what happened to the assailant, but said an investigation into the incident was under way.
Wardak provincial police chief Abdul Qayum Bakizoi said the wounded were five U.S. soldiers. He did not have further details.
A witness said Afghan civilians were talking to the soldiers outside their base when a man in an Afghan army uniform opened fire on them with a machine gun.
"The Americans were standing on the other side of us while we were standing with a translator. Suddenly the Afghan soldier aimed his machine gun on them and started shooting," Eman said.
He added that the wounded soldiers were evacuated by helicopter while the others "took us aside in fear of a possible gunbattle." Eman said the Afghan who opened fire escaped toward some trees and into a nearby village.
Wardak, located close to Kabul, is considered a Taliban hotbed and has been the scene of heavy fighting over the past year.
On the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, a truck bomb outside the same coalition base wounded 77 American soldiers and killed five Afghan civilians. Sayed Abad is also seven miles (12 kilometers) east of the Tangi Valley, where the Taliban on Aug. 6 shot down a U.S. military helicopter, killing 30 Americans — the deadliest single loss for American forces in the decade-old war.
Tuesday's shooting was the latest likely case of a so-called "green-on-blue" attack in which Afghan soldiers or insurgents disguised in their uniforms turn their weapons on coalition troops.
So far this year 26 coalition troops have been killed in 18 such attacks. That compares with 11 fatal attacks and 20 deaths the previous year. In 2007 and 2008 there were a combined total of four attacks and four deaths.
Officials do not routinely report such attacks where troops are wounded unless asked.
Efforts to drawdown the number of U.S. and other foreign troops in Afghanistan rely on them working closely with their Afghan partners to train and mentor them so that they can take over the security of their country by the end of 2014. But such insider attacks fuel distrust and have triggered increased security protections for foreign troops serving in Afghanistan.
A total of 221 foreign troops have been killed this year, including five in July.