Afghan soldier forged papers, deserted army before killing French troops
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MAHMUD RAQI, Afghanistan -- The Afghan soldier who killed four French troops last month bribed an Afghan army recruiter to forge his enlistment papers, deserted to Pakistan and then bribed his way back into the army the month before the shootings, McClatchy Newspapers has learned.
The apparent ease with which a rogue soldier twice circumvented the Afghan National Army's vetting process, with the aid of a corrupt recruiter whose job it is to stop such applicants, suggests that the U.S.-led coalition still cannot be certain of the integrity of the Afghan security forces to which it is entrusting the country as American troops end their combat mission, perhaps as soon as next year.
The Jan. 20 shootings in Kapisa province, northeast of Kabul, caused President Nicolas Sarkozy to announce that French forces would withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2013, a year sooner than scheduled.
It also underscored the growing problem of Afghan soldiers turning weapons on U.S. and international troops who are training them.
The motive for the shooter in Kapisa -- who also reportedly wounded as many as 18 other French troops, some seriously -- remains unclear. But the fact that the soldier had just returned from Peshawar, Pakistan, a hotbed of Taliban militants, apparently didn't raise any red flags.
Cmdr. Abdul Musahiwal, police chief of Musahi district of southern Kabul province, said in an interview that the shooter was a 21-year-old second lieutenant named Abdul Saboor, who hails from a village in Musahi. Afghan Defense Ministry deputy spokesman Daulat Waziri confirmed Lt. Saboor's identity but declined to discuss details.
McClatchy Newspapers obtained a copy of an Afghan Defense Ministry interrogation report in which Lt. Saboor described how, in April, he approached an Afghan army recruiter, who offered to prepare enlistment papers and a fake national ID card for a bribe of 500 afghanis, or about $10.
Lt. Saboor was sent to a training center and then deployed with the 6th Battalion, 4th Brigade of the 203rd Tandar ("Thunder") Corps, the interrogation report said. He deserted eight months later and went to Peshawar.
When he returned to Afghanistan, he found his way back into the army in December, with aid from the same recruiter in Kabul, he told interrogators.
The report says Lt. Saboor used an M249 light machine gun -- a weapon supplied by the U.S. military to the Afghan army -- when he shot the French troops, who were unarmed. It says he tried to flee but was captured by Afghan soldiers at the base and is in custody in Kabul.
McClatchy was unable to independently verify the contents of the document, but it appeared to be authentic.
Mr. Waziri, the defense spokesman, would not comment on McClatchy's findings.
Through a spokesman, the Taliban denied that Lt. Saboor was one of theirs. "The person who brought a big change in French policies is an Afghan whose consciousness has been awakened, who acted based on his own decision," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid wrote in an email. "He did not have previous contact with us."
But there were conflicting accounts from officials about Lt. Saboor's background and why he went to Pakistan. Cmdr. Musahiwal said Lt. Saboor had had psychological problems and was taken to Peshawar by an uncle after attacking a relative with an ax in a land dispute.
First Published February 4, 2012 12:00 am