'Hundreds' of Afghan soldiers sacked over insider attacks

Afghanistan said Wednesday it had arrested or sacked hundreds of Afghan soldiers in a bid to stem a rise in insider attacks on NATO forces, a trend that threatens to undermine Western plans for a troop withdrawal.

The surge of assaults, unprecedented in modern warfare, have seen Afghan troops opening fire on their NATO colleagues more than 30 times this year, killing at least 45 foreign troops -- most of them Americans.

The shootings have raised questions about the rapid growth of the Afghan army and police and alarmed alliance commanders, who have been under pressure to expand the Afghan forces to pave the way for an eventual exit of Western troops.

Defence ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi said Wednesday: "So far, hundreds of people have either been arrested or expelled from the army. We have found evidence against some people and some suspicious people have been arrested."

When asked for further details, Azimi gave no breakdown on precise numbers. Nor was it clear when the action was taken against the soldiers.

US Lieutenant General James Terry, head of the NATO-led coalition's joint command in Afghanistan, said he heard 200-300 Afghan troops were removed from the force but was waiting to learn precise numbers and details from Afghan defence officials.

The Afghan government was expected to launch a "counterintelligence initiative" soon to pre-empt attacks and identify potential turncoat threats within army and police units, Terry told reporters in Washington via video link from Afghanistan.

He suggested the Afghans would review screening for the whole security force, which is due to reach 352,000 next month, and acknowledged the effort would take time.

"And in relationship to vetting the entire force, I'm sure it will take considerable time, but I think what the Afghans want to do is be very sure of their process and then go back and re-check," he said.

But he predicted the security screening would not "slow down the pace of operations."

The attacks pose a threat to the linchpin of NATO's strategy of training Afghan forces to take over when the bulk of the 130,000 US-led foreign troops leave the country at the end of 2014.

On Sunday, the US military announced that its special forces have suspended training for about 1,000 Afghan police recruits to vet existing members.

Karzai's spokesman told AFP on the same day that the attacks were the "mutual responsibility" of both NATO and Afghan forces, and the president had ordered all Afghan forces to be re-vetted.

Azimi on Wednesday denied that NATO training for Afghan soldiers had been affected, with the spokesman insisting it was still "going well".

He also stood behind the processes of recruitment and vetting.

"Good attention was paid during the recruitment process, but when some soldiers went on vacation and came back they became somehow problematic," he said.

NATO has tried to play down the attacks, saying that they are carried out by a tiny proportion of the Afghan forces over cultural differences or personal disputes.

The alliance's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Wednesday spoke about the attacks by telephone with Karzai, voicing his concern and calling on the president "to join in" with preventive measures being taken by NATO.

Taliban insurgents claim responsibility for many of the attacks, saying their fighters have infiltrated the army and police.

Their reclusive supreme leader, Mullah Omar, has boasted that the attacks are the result of a deliberate plan to sow distrust between foreign and Afghan troops.

An Afghan army officer in the restive eastern province of Paktika blamed Taliban infiltrators and poor treatment from US mentors.

"Most of our soldiers come from different provinces, they are illiterate, and US mentors sometimes behave badly with them. That is why they turn their weapons at them," he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

August was the worst month for so-called green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan, with nearly one in three international coalition deaths caused by Afghan allies.

  • Ford plants a new Mustang on the Empire State Building in style 41 minutes ago
    Ford plants a new Mustang on the Empire State Building in style

    Fifty years ago this week, Ford made history by staging the greatest car launch in history — building up the drama around its new Mustang with stunts like papering over dealership windows and landing on the covers of both Time and Newsweek magazine. To celebrate its anniversary, Ford re-created a stunt it last pulled off in 1965 — landing a new Mustang on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building.

  • All-new 2015 Toyota Camry becomes an edgier appliance 1 hour 12 minutes ago
    All-new 2015 Toyota Camry becomes an edgier appliance

    Toyota finds itself in a tricky situation. Those that enjoy cars as more than a simple means of transportation think of the Camry as a bland spongecake gone stale. And yet it's been the best-selling vehicle in the entire industry for the past 12 years, with a car rolling off the production line every 65 seconds. So how do you add flavor to your insipid dish without alienating your loyal -- and vast -- customer base? Enter the 2015 Camry: Toyota's attempt to engage enthusiasts while appeasing to those that think a turbo is nothing but make-believe snail.

  • New Hyundai Sonata grows into a large contender 1 hour 15 minutes ago
    New Hyundai Sonata grows into a large contender

    So it’s taken a while, but Hyundai is in the big leagues now. There is rife evidence of this in its sales numbers, reliability ratings and white paper indices, but the most telling indicator to us, perhaps, is that Hyundai no longer feels the need to overdesign or mimic other automobile designs as if to say, “Look, we can build good cars, too! They look just like these other nice ones!”

  • Supermodel Qi Qi is afraid of flying
    Supermodel Qi Qi is afraid of flying

    The supermodel said that she will take her daughter in a vacation but will try to avoid boarding a plane

  • One dead as S. Korea ferry with 476 passengers sinks
    One dead as S. Korea ferry with 476 passengers sinks

    South Korea's coastguard said Wednesday one person had been killed as it struggled to rescue 476 people -- mostly high school students -- aboard a ferry that ran aground and sank off the southern coast. "The ferry is almost completely submerged," Lee said, adding that a detachment of South Korean Navy SEALS were taking part in the rescue. Of the 450 passengers on board the ferry bound for the southern resort island of Jeju, 325 were students from a high school in Ansan, south of Seoul. The 6,825-tonne ferry, which had sailed out of the western port of Incheon on Tuesday evening, ran into trouble some 20 kilometres (13 miles) off the island of Byungpoong.

  • ‘Huge’ Hindu, Buddhist statues against Islam, ex-judge says
    ‘Huge’ Hindu, Buddhist statues against Islam, ex-judge says

    KUALA LUMPUR, April 16 — The “huge” statues at a Hindu temple in Batu Caves and Buddhist temple in Penang are an affront to Islam as the religion forbids idolatry, a retired Court of Appeals judge...