US Troops Investigated in Beating Death of Afghan Commando

Czech soldiers patrol through Dihi Babi village, Parwan province, Afghanistan. American and Czech troops are being investigated for allegedly beating an Afghan commando to death last month following an insider attack that killed a Czech soldier. (U.S. Army photo/George Huley)
Czech soldiers patrol through Dihi Babi village, Parwan province, Afghanistan. American and Czech troops are being investigated for allegedly beating an Afghan commando to death last month following an insider attack that killed a Czech soldier. (U.S. Army photo/George Huley)

KABUL, Afghanistan -- U.S. Green Berets and Czech troops are being investigated after an Afghan commando died in custody last month, military officials in Afghanistan said Tuesday.

The commando, Wahidullah Khan, 19, had been arrested by Afghan troops and handed over to the U.S.-led coalition shortly after he was accused of opening fire and killing a Czech soldier at Shindand Air Base in western Herat province on Oct. 22, the New York Times first reported Monday. When Khan was returned to Afghan custody, he had been beaten unconscious, officials said. He died shortly thereafter, the newspaper said, citing unnamed Afghan officials.

Gen. Scott Miller, commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, has since asked the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command to investigate the death.

"The incident remains under investigation," NATO's Resolute Support mission in Kabul said Tuesday in an email to Stars and Stripes. "We will hold individuals accountable, as appropriate."

A team from the Army's 7th Special Forces Group, which helped transfer Khan to the custody of Czech soldiers, has been removed from Afghanistan for the duration of the investigation, the Times reported. It's not clear if any U.S. troops were responsible for beating Khan.

The Czech Ministry of Defense denied any involvement in the commando's death to the Times.

Khan was accused of killing Cpl. Tomas Prochazka and wounding two other Czech soldiers when he shot at a coalition vehicle last month.

It was one of five insider attacks in which a member of the Afghan security forces has turned their weapon on coalition troops this year. NATO troops were killed in four of these incidents.

The shooting came just days after an insider attack at a meeting in Kandahar province killed Afghan police Gen. Abdul Raziq and wounded U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Smiley. Miller, the top U.S. commander in the country, had been at the meeting but was unharmed.

Insider attacks remain a serious threat in Afghanistan, although they are much less frequent than at their peak in 2012. U.S. and Afghan officials have sought to reduce the threat in recent years and in September 2017 introduced a screening process that has since led to the removal of some 300 Afghan commandos from the force.

The elite commando troops conduct most of the country's offensive operations against terrorist and insurgent groups. They are often accompanied on the battlefield by U.S. special operations troops. In at least two insider attacks last year, commandos turned their weapons on their American counterparts, killing three and wounding seven.

The shooting in Herat that killed Prochazka was the third attack on Czech troops serving in Afghanistan in as many months. Days earlier, five soldiers were wounded when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb outside Bagram Air Field. Three were killed in an August suicide bombing while on a foot patrol outside the base.

The Czech military says its troops operate at Bagram and in Herat, Kabul and Logar provinces. The Czech Republic recently agreed to station 390 soldiers in Afghanistan through 2020, among the more than 16,000 coalition troops in the country who mainly train and equip government forces as part of the NATO mission.

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