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.
(PHOTO: A roadside advertisement in Mahmud Raqi, the provincial capital of Kapisa province, encourages women to join the Afghan National Army. A shooting of French soldiers in Kapisa by a disgruntled Afghan army soldier in January 2012 precipitated the announcement that French combat troops would withdraw from Afghanistan ahead of schedule.)
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 shooting spree here in Kapisa province, northeast of Kabul, caused outrage in France and prompted President Nicolas Sarkozy to announce that French combat forces would withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2013, a year earlier than scheduled.
It also underscored the growing problem of Afghan soldiers turning weapons on the U.S. and international troops who are training them. U.S. military studies have found that so-called fratricide attacks by Afghan soldiers — including at least 39 from 2007 to 2011, according to a congressional inquiry — are usually carried out by soldiers angry at how their coalition counterparts treated them or Afghan civilians, or by insurgents who infiltrated the security forces.
The motive for the shooter in the Kapisa incident — which also reportedly wounded as many as 18 other French troops, some seriously — remains unclear. But the fact that the rogue soldier had just returned from Peshawar, Pakistan, a known hotbed of Taliban militants, apparently didn’t raise any red flags.
Cmdr. Abdul Musahiwal, police chief of Musahi district of southern Kabul province, told McClatchy Newspapers that the shooter was a 21-year-old second lieutenant named Abdul Saboor, who hails from a village in Musahi. Daulat Waziri, deputy spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, confirmed Saboor’s identity but declined to discuss details because the investigation was ongoing.
McClatchy Newspapers obtained a copy of an Afghan Defense Ministry interrogation report in which Saboor described how, in April 2011, he approached an Afghan army recruiter who offered to prepare enlistment papers and a fake national ID card for a bribe of 500 afghanis, about $10.
Saboor was sent to a training center and then deployed with the 6th Battalion, 4th Brigade of the 203rd Tandar (“Thunder”) Corps, according to the interrogation report. He deserted eight months later and went to Peshawar. What he did in Pakistan was unclear, but in the report he said that he was “bored in corps 203 so I fled.”
When he returned to Afghanistan he found his way back into the army in December with the aid of the same recruiter in Kabul, he told interrogators. The recruiter knew he was a deserter, but after Saboor paid him 800 afghanis, about $16, he was again furnished with fake papers and found himself back in the army.
McClatchy was unable to independently verify the contents of the document, but it appeared to be authentic. The document apparently was drawn up following Saboor’s initial interrogation at a Defense Ministry facility in Kabul. Waziri, the defense spokesman, would not comment on McClatchy’s findings but defended the government’s screening process for army recruits.
“We are very careful about the process, but this was an incident that happened,” he said. “Incidents happen, even in America, where somebody takes a gun and goes into a school and kills people. We will try to prevent such incidents in the future.”