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Afghan soldiers removed in attack probe

KABUL -- Afghan authorities have detained or removed hundreds of soldiers in an investigation into rising insider attacks against international service personnel who are their supposed partners in the fight against Taliban insurgents and other militants, officials said yesterday.

The crackdown is the result of the Afghan Defense Ministry's effort to re-evaluate soldiers to stem the attacks, which are complicating plans to train Afghan forces so that most foreign troops can withdraw from the country by the end of 2014.

The U.S. military is taking precautionary measures, too, and recently stopped training about 1,000 members of the Afghan Local Police, a controversial network of village-defense units that is growing but remains a fraction of the country's army and police force. President Hamid Karzai has expressed concern that without careful vetting, the program could end up arming local troublemakers, strongmen or criminals.

So far this year, 45 international service members, most of them Americans, have died at the hands of Afghan soldiers or policemen or insurgents wearing their uniforms. There were at least 12 such attacks in August alone, resulting in 15 deaths, including that of Marine Lance Cpl. Greg Buckley Jr. of Oceanside.

Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi said hundreds of Afghan National Army soldiers were removed from the service, but he declined to give an exact number or specify how many were detained.

Lt. Gen. James Terry, commander of the U.S.-led coalition's joint command in Afghanistan, Wednesday told reporters he had heard 200 to 300 soldiers were removed in the revetting process, but that he had not yet confirmed those numbers with the Afghan government.

Azimi said many soldiers were dismissed because they submitted incomplete or forged documents. He did not say whether any were connected to insurgent groups, but noted that some were suspected of having had contacts with militants.

An Afghan defense official said many were ousted for drug addictions, while others did not pass biometric tests meant to weed out recruits with questionable backgrounds.

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