| ||Video: Taliban Welcomes Rogue Afghan Who Shot US Soldiers as a Hero|
By Muhammad Lila and Aleem Agha
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A new online video shows a rogue Afghan soldier receiving a hero's welcome from Taliban commanders, after returning from a mission where he killed an American soldier in cold blood.
The video, released by the Taliban's media propaganda wing, shows the soldier returning to a Taliban village in Ghaziabad in Kunar province, with dozens of Taliban men lined up to greet him. The soldier, wearing an Afghan Army uniform, identifies himself as Ghazi Mahmood, or "Warrior Mahmood."
Men with white Taliban flags, some with their faces covered, others carrying rocket propelled grenade launchers, throng around him, parading him through the village as insurgents shower him with flower garlands and chant "Long Live Mahmood."
"I opened fire on three Americans who were sitting together," the man explains calmly in the video. "The reason I killed them is because they have occupied our country. They are enemies of our religion and they kill our innocent people."
In another scene, the rogue soldier is seated outside a wooden structure, surrounded by armed insurgents, some of whose faces are blurred. Standing in a row in front are dozens of young madrassa students, who pump their fists into the air cheering "Jihad, Jihad" and "Long Live the warrior."
The video offers rare glimpse into the world of Afghan Taliban-style chivalry, where those who kill Americans often receive fame, family honor, and in some cases, money from insurgent commanders to support their families.
In a statement to ABC News, a spokesperson with the International Security and Assistance Force, or ISAF, suggested the video only serves to get more young Afghans to die for a "fruitless cause."
"The insurgents are well versed at taking a snapshot in time and then alleging that it reflects a broader movement," said James Graybeal.
"We know better… Today, the vast majority of the 350,000 members of the Afghan National Security Forces are serving honorably and defending their country against those with no positive vision for the future."
Although the video cannot be independently verified, its authenticity is supported by several corroborating facts on the ground.
On May 11th, a shooting took place in a camp run by the Afghan National Army, where American troops had gone to train Afghan soldiers. A rogue guard at the camp opened fire, killing at least one American and injuring two others before escaping. The Taliban immediately claimed responsibility, saying that a gunman named "Mahmood" was responsible and that he had returned to a Taliban camp in the remote region. The gunman's name was later confirmed by Afghan officials.
The attack happened at the beginning of the Taliban's annual summer offensive, amid heightening concern over an escalation in so-called green-on-blue attacks, where Afghan soldiers turn their weapons against their American partners. There have been at least twenty such attacks this year, a frequency much higher than in years past, complicating NATO's efforts to train Afghan soldiers ahead of U.S. troop withdrawal in 2014.
In the past, NATO and Afghan officials have said most of the attacks are motivated not by support for the Taliban, but for "private reasons" including grievances against local Afghan commanders, ethnic feuds, and depression. Senior U.S. officials have insisted the attacks don't indicate a high level of Taliban infiltration into the army.
Today's video shows otherwise, suggesting that rogue Afghan soldiers who kill their American counterparts will find strong support among insurgents. The presence of so many young children in the video also suggests a new generation of green-on-blue attackers could be waiting in the wings.
"Are there others who will carry out attacks similar to what you have?" the rogue soldier is asked during the video.
"Yes" he replies. "There are some people who are looking for the opportunity to kill infidels. They will carry out their jihad and join us."
Likely, to a hero's welcome.