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    Ex-Afghan soldier blamed in US death killed in airstrike

    Insider attack avenged; critics debate air rules

    KABUL — The US-led coalition said Monday that its airstrike in Kunar Province on Wednesday killed a former Afghan soldier blamed in the death of an American soldier last year.

    The man identified as Mahmood was thought responsible for the May 11 insider killing of Army First Lieutenant Alejo Thompson, a 30-year-old father of two from Yuma, Ariz. He was based at Fort Carson, Colo.

    Mahmood, who was in his early 20’s and who used only one name, later fled. The coalition said he had an associate named Rashid who “facilitated and assisted with insider-attack planning and execution.’’


    A man named Mahmood was highlighted in a Taliban video that showed him being welcomed as a hero with flowers around his neck while entering an insurgent camp. The Taliban said he had defected to their side.

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    Killings by uniformed Afghans of foreign soldiers and civilians rose dramatically last year. According to NATO, insider attacks killed 61 coalition personnel in 45 incidents last year, compared to 35 killed in 21 attacks a year earlier.

    So far this year, there has been only one insider attack. That was the Jan. 7 killing of a British soldier in southern Helmand Province by a man in an Afghan army uniform.

    Critics have expressed worries that a new order by President Hamid Karzai barring Afghan security forces from requesting international airstrikes during operations in residential areas could hobble government troops as they prepare to take over full responsibility for security from international forces.

    The US-led coalition said Monday that last week’s killing of the Afghan soldier-turned-insurgent underscored the Afghan troops’ dependence on warplanes and helicopters.


    Karzai officially issued the order on Monday, two days after promising to do so amid anger over another NATO airstrike requested by the national intelligence service that local officials said killed at least 10 civilians and four insurgents.

    The top US commander in Afghanistan, Marine General Joseph Dunford, said he believes the American-led NATO coalition can operate effectively despite the ban.

    Afghans currently lead about 90 percent of military operations nationwide and will fully take charge in the spring, a key step in the plan to withdraw US and other foreign combat forces by the end of 2014.

    However, they remain heavily dependent on the coalition for air support and medical evacuations in areas where the Taliban and other militants live among the population and often enjoy local support.

    Some analysts said the ban on airstrikes against residential areas would limit the Afghan forces’ effectiveness and could prompt the savvy Taliban to take shelter among civilians in cities and villages.


    ‘‘We don’t have the ability to support our forces on the ground,’’ said former Afghan general Amrullah Aman.

    ‘‘These insurgents are using Afghan houses as bunkers and innocent children are being killed,’’ he added. ‘‘The insurgents will hear that the decree has been issued and feel safe.’’

    The death of civilians during military operations, particularly in airstrikes, has been a major source of acrimony between Karzai’s government and foreign forces.