Wednesday British and Afghan authorities said, an Afghan policeman opened fire on British soldiers in the volatile southern province of Helmand. Five Soldiers are killed. The event raised concerns about discipline within the Afghan forces and possible infiltration by insurgents.
The incident came almost exactly a month after an Afghan policeman on patrol with U.S. soldiers opened fire on the Americans, killing two before fleeing.
Training and operating jointly with Afghan police and soldiers is key to NATO's strategy of dealing with the spreading Taliban-led insurgency and, ultimately, allowing international forces to leave Afghanistan.
Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, who was the main challenger to President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan's recent fraud-marred election, said the continuing violence showed the Karzai administration had failed to bring peace to the country despite assistance from international forces, The Associated Press reports.
It was also reported, a total of 92 U.K. service personnel, including the five killed in the compound, have died in Afghanistan so far this year. In the 1982 Falklands war 255 servicemen died.
The deaths will add to pressure on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to justify the presence of the U.K. force in the country at a time when polls show most Britons want their troops to return home. Brown has argued that bringing stability to Afghanistan and rooting out radical Islamists will help protect the U.K. from terrorism.
“The death of five brave soldiers in a single incident is a terrible loss,” the prime minister said in an e-mailed statement. “I pay tribute to their courage, skill and determination. They will not be forgotten, ” Bloomberg reports.
News agencies also report, a major fissure has opened up in Labour's support for the Afghan war with a call from the former Foreign Office minister Kim Howells for the phased withdrawal of British troops from Helmand.
Howells, who is now Gordon Brown's intelligence and security watchdog, said the billions of pounds saved should be redirected to defending the UK from terrorist attacks by al-Qaida.
Writing in the Guardian, Howells, who had ministerial responsibility for Afghanistan until 2008, said: "It would be better to bring home the great majority of our fighting men and women and concentrate, instead, on using the money saved to secure our own borders, gather intelligence on terrorist activities inside Britain," guardian.co.uk reports.