WASHINGTON - An Afghan soldier shot to death a 22-year-old Marine at an outpost in southwestern Afghanistan last month in a previously undisclosed case of apparent Afghan treachery that marked at least the seventh killing of an American service member by a supposed ally in the past six weeks, Marine officials said.
Lance Corporal Edward J. Dycus of Greenville, Miss., was shot in the back of the head on Feb. 1 while standing guard at an Afghan-US base in the Marja district of Helmand Province.
The exact circumstances have not been disclosed, but the Dycus family has been notified that he was killed by an Afghan soldier. Marine officials discussed the matter on condition of anonymity because it is under investigation.
When the Pentagon announced Dycus’s death the day after the shooting, it said he died “while conducting combat operations’’ in Helmand. It made no mention of treachery, which has become a growing problem for US and allied forces as they work closely with Afghan forces to wind down the war.
The international military coalition reported a case of a person wearing an Afghan Army uniform “turning his weapon against’’ a coalition service member, but it did not say the shooter was a soldier or that the victim was an American.
Gary Kolb, and Army colonel and coalition spokesman, said that report was mistakenly not filed among casualty reports on the coalition’s website; it also suggested the shooting happened Jan. 31. The coalition has a policy of not identifying the nationality of service members killed.
In another setback straining US-Afghan relations on Wednesday, an Afghan civilian interpreter at a British base in Helmand stole a coalition pickup truck, drove it at high speed onto an airfield ramp, and crashed it just as a plane carrying Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was landing.
Lieutenant General Curtis Scaparotti, the No. 2 overall commander in Afghanistan, told reporters that the truck was headed toward a group of US Marines assembled on the tarmac for Panetta’s arrival. Neither the Marines nor others in Panetta’s welcoming party were injured; the Afghan died of burns sustained in the crash.
NATO has approved of measures to help reduce the risks of attacks by supposed partners. They include embedding counterintelligence officers in the Afghan Army to detect people behaving suspiciously, increasing the number of Afghan intelligence officers, and making sure Afghan troops are paid regularly.