August 11, 2012 - 14:04 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - A Camp Pendleton-based special operations captain was one of three Marines fatally shot before dawn Friday, August 10 in Helmand province by an Afghan police officer who had just shared a meal with them, UT San Diego said.
It was the third attack on coalition forces by their Afghan counterparts in a week.
Capt. Matt Manoukian, 29, of Los Altos Hills was killed along with two other yet-to-be-identified special operations troops after an Afghan police commander invited them to a meeting to discuss security issues. The meeting followed the meal, which took place early because of daytime fasting restrictions during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
The “green-on-blue” attack occurred in the volatile Sangin district of Helmand province, said U.S. military spokeswoman Maj. Lori Hodge. Sangin was a Taliban stronghold for years and has one of the highest concentrations of improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan.
Authorities are searching for the gunman, who fled after the shooting. Sangin’s district chief and the Taliban both identified the assailant as a member of the Afghan National Police who was helping Marines train the Afghan local police.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said by telephone that the attacker joined the insurgency after his attack Friday. “Now, he is with us,” Ahmadi said.
Last month, during an interview with U-T San Diego in Afghanistan, Manoukian said he trusted Afghan forces as his partners in a joint mission of “security, governance and development. It’s a full-spectrum operation.”
In 25 attacks this year, 31 U.S. coalition service members have died at the hands of Afghan forces or insurgents disguised in Afghan uniforms, according to NATO. There were 11 such attacks and 20 deaths last year, according to an Associated Press count. Each of the previous two years saw five such attacks.
The assaults have cast a shadow of fear and mistrust over U.S. efforts to train Afghan soldiers and police more than 10 years after the U.S.-led invasion to topple the Taliban’s hardline Islamist regime for sheltering al-Qaeda’s leadership. They also raise further doubts about the quality of the Afghan forces taking over in many areas before most international troops leave the country in 2014.
Manoukian, the son of two judges, joined the Marine Corps about seven years ago. He was on his fourth combat deployment — including his second in Afghanistan.