Army Gen. Martin Dempsey (AP)
KABUL, Afghanistan -- The escalating violence in Afghanistan -- including a NATO airstrike that killed eight Afghan women and girls gathering firewood -- is straining the military partnership between Kabul and NATO. And it comes as the U.S. begins to withdraw thousands of troops sent three years ago to route the Taliban from southern strongholds.
Officials say Afghan police killed four American soldiers coming to their aid after a checkpoint attack Sunday, the third assault by government forces or insurgents disguised in military uniforms in as many days.
The U.S. military's top general says the problem of rogue Afghan soldiers and police turning their guns on American and allied troops is a "very serious threat" to the war effort.
Gen. Martin Dempsey says the Afghan government needs to take the problem as seriously as do U.S. and NATO commanders and officials.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman says "you can't whitewash" the problem, and that it can't be fixed by just working harder.
Dempsey, who's traveling in Europe, tells American Forces Press Service that "something has to change."
This year, 51 international service members have died at the hands of their Afghan allies or those who have infiltrated their ranks. At least 12 such attacks came in August alone, leaving 15 dead.
The Taliban says the police officers who killed four U.S. troops at a checkpoint in southern Afghanistan on Sunday were not affiliated with its insurgency.
But Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi tells The Associated Press "they are Afghans and they know that Americans are our enemy."
One police officer was killed in the clash with NATO troops. Other officers at the site fled. It's unclear if they were involved in the attack or not.
Ahmadi says in an emailed statement to the AP that the police who fled have joined up with the insurgency.
Afghan officials say the checkpoint came under attack first from insurgents sometime around midnight and American forces came to help the Afghan police respond to the attack.
The officials say it's not clear if some of the Afghan police turned on the Americans in the middle of the battle, or were somehow forced into attacking the American troops by the insurgents.
Elsewhere, Afghan officials say NATO planes killed eight women and girls in a remote province who had gone out before dawn to gather firewood. The U.S.-led coalition has apologized.