The Afghan Taliban said on Saturday they had recruited an Afghan soldier who shot dead four French soldiers in the country's east a day earlier, prompting France to threaten an early pullout from the NATO-led war.
The claim of responsibility raises serious concerns about handing control of security over to the Afghan army and police, which NATO-led forces are currently in the process of doing before all foreign combat troops leave by the end of 2014.
Using another name the Islamist group call themselves, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters by telephone: “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has recruited people in important positions. Some of them have already accomplished their missions,” he said adding that the four died on the spot.
The killings in Kapisa province were the latest in a string of such attacks in which Afghan troops turn on their Western allies and mentors. While NATO has blamed Taliban infiltration in the past, it has also said stress, indiscipline and divided loyalties within the hastily traded ranks played a role.
Friday’s brazen attack also comes weeks after an offer from the Taliban to open a political office in Qatar as a prelude to possible peace talks with the United States and other nations.
After the shooting ─ which took the French death toll to 82 since the war began in 2001─ President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered all French military operations on the ground to be suspended and Defense Minister Gerard Longuet jetted into Kabul on Saturday.
A regional Taliban commander added that incidents such as a video showing U.S. Marines urinating on corpses were boosting support for the group among Afghans and threatened more attacks.
“Our missions have become easier because of incidents like the video,” he said.
Despite the presence of more than 100,000 foreign troops, violence across Afghanistan remains at its worst levels since the Taliban was toppled by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in late 2001, according to the United Nations.