KABUL — An Afghan soldier-turned-insurgent who was feted by the Taliban for killing an American soldier during an insider attack in eastern Afghanistan last year has been killed in a raid, the U.S.-led international coalition said on Monday.
NATO identified the insurgent as Mahmood and said that he and an accomplice, identified only as Rashid, died in last Wednesday’s operation in eastern Kunar province’s Ghaziabad district. No other details were provided.
Mahmood is thought responsible for the May 11 killing of U.S. Army 1st Lt. Alejo Thompson, who died during an insider attack on a base in Kunar. The attack also wounded two American soldiers. Mahmood, in his early 20’s and who went only by one name later fled. Thompson, 30, a father of two, was from Yuma, Arizona. He was based at Ford Carson, Colorado.
“Afghan and coalition forces confirmed today the death of the two Taliban insider attack facilitators, Mahmood and Rashid, during a security operation in Ghaziabad district, Kunar province, Wednesday,” the coalition said in a statement. “Mahmood was responsible for the death of one American service member during the May 11, 2012, insider attack in Kunar province.”
It added that “Rashid was Mahmood’s associate and a former Afghan National Army soldier who facilitated and assisted with insider attack planning and execution.”
After he fled, a man named Mahmood was highlighted in a Taliban video that showed him being welcomed as a hero while entering an insurgent camp. In the video, he was shown in his Afghan army uniform, his U.S.-made M-16 assault rifle, and with garlands of flowers around his neck.
The Taliban claimed he had defected to their side.
Killings by uniformed Afghans of foreign soldiers and civilians rose dramatically last year. According to NATO, so-called insider attacks killed 61 coalition personnel in 45 incidents last year, compared to 35 killed in 21 attacks a year earlier. This tally does not include the Dec. 24 killing of an American civilian adviser by a female member of the Afghan police because an investigation of the reportedly mentally unstable woman is continuing.
In some cases, militants have donned Afghan army or police uniforms to attack foreign troops. And a number of attacks have also been carried out by members of Afghan security forces against their own comrades.
Insider attacks have dropped sharply after NATO forces took steps to mitigate them, including having armed “guardian angels” looking over troops as they sleep.
There has been only one insider attack so far this year, the Jan. 7 killing of a British soldier in southern Helmand province by a man in an Afghan army uniform.
Foreign military casualties have sharply decreased as Afghan forces take the lead for security and the coalition takes a back seat. So far this year, eight foreign soldiers have died, including three Americans.
U.S. troop deaths declined overall, from 404 in 2011 to 295 in 2012. More than 2,000 U.S. troops and nearly 1,100 coalition troops have died in Afghanistan since the U.S. invasion in late 2001.
By comparison, more than 1,200 Afghan soldiers died in 2012 compared to more than 550 in 2011, according to data compiled by the Washington-based Brookings Institution.
There are about 100,000 foreign troops currently in Afghanistan, including about 66,000 from the United States.
President Barack Obama last week announced that he could cut American troop number by 34,000 within a year. Allied countries are expected to also draw down.