KABUL A U.S. marine shot and killed an Afghan police officer Saturday after a dispute between the pair during a security operation in southern Afghanistan, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.
ISAF was investigating the incident in Helmand province. It said initial reports found that after a dispute, the police officer made threatening statements and handled his weapon carelessly and the marine told his commanding officers.
"After departing his post, the uniformed police member returned with his weapon raised and pointed toward the marine," ISAF said in a statement.
"The marine responded with escalation of force procedures, including shouting at the individual to put the weapon down."
When the police officer failed to put down his weapon, the marine fired two shots and killed him, ISAF said. More information would be made available, it said, when the investigation into the incident at a patrol base in Sangin district was complete.
The incident highlights the pressure on both NATO-led troops and Afghan security forces as they try to fight a strengthening insurgency, while ramping up Afghan police and army numbers to prepare for a transfer of security control by 2014.
Foreign forces are helping train thousands of Afghans for the police and army, and as well as stress created by a tight schedule there is also sometimes mistrust.
Afghan authorities said in 2009 that they were tightening vetting for the police and army after an Afghan soldier killed five British troops in November of that year. But six NATO troops were shot dead last November by a man wearing an Afghan border police uniform during a training exercise in eastern Afghanistan.
Violence in Afghanistan is at its worst since late 2001 when U.S.-backed Afghan forces overthrew the Taliban after the September 11 attacks on the United States.
The insurgency has spread out of its traditional strongholds in the south and east over the past two years into once peaceful areas of the north and west. The north in particular has become a deadly new front in the war.
Last year, a record 711 foreign troops were killed, according to monitoring website www.iCasualties.org, up from 521 in 2009.
Afghan security forces have been hit even harder than foreign troops. A total of 1,292 Afghan police and 821 Afghan soldiers were killed last year, according to the Afghan government.
Ordinary Afghans, however, have borne the brunt of the fighting. The United Nations has said 2,412 civilians were killed and 3,803 wounded in the first 10 months of last year, a 20 percent increase over 2009.
The Afghan government has said 5,225 insurgents were killed last year. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols, editing by Ron Popeski)