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In fact, while the Taliban seek to soften their image, the beheadings recall the days of public executions during their rule.

There are fears that the Taliban will again control southern Afghanistan and impose their strict interpretation of Islamic law on the region as foreign troops gradually withdraw in the next two years. Nearly all foreign troops are to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, and the U.S.-led NATO coalition hopes that Afghan security forces will be strong enough to take control.

As the drawdown progresses, there has been a surge in attacks by Afghan forces against their allies.

A group of U.S. and Afghan soldiers came under an insurgent attack in Laghman province Monday, said Noman Hatefi, a spokesman for the Afghan army corps in eastern Afghanistan. He said the troops returned fire and took up fighting positions.

He said the two Americans were killed when an Afghan soldier fell and accidentally discharged his weapon.

“He didn’t do this intentionally. But then the commander of the (Afghan) unit started shouting at him: ‘What did you do? You killed two NATO soldiers!’ And so he threw down his weapon and started to run,” Mr. Hatefi said.

The U.S. troops already had called in air support to help with the insurgent attack, and the aircraft fired on the escaping soldier from above, killing him, Mr. Hatefi said.

Lt. Col. Hagen Messer of Germany, a NATO spokesman, confirmed that two international soldiers were killed by an Afghan soldier in Laghman province, but he would not comment on whether the killing was intentional or accidental.

In Washington, a U.S. Defense Department official said the Afghan soldier fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the Americans and that this seemed to indicate that it was an intentional act. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because an investigation is under way, said he was unaware of any indications that the shooting was accidental.

Insider attacks have been a problem for the U.S.-led military coalition for years, but it recently has become a crisis. There have been at least 33 such attacks so far this year, killing 42 coalition members, mostly Americans. Last year, there were 21 attacks, killing 35; and in 2010, there were 11 attacks with 20 deaths.

The chief spokesman for NATO forces in the country said coalition forces were not pulling back from collaborating with the Afghans because of the attacks.

“We are not going to reduce the close relationship with our Afghan partners,” Brig. Gen. Gunter Katz told reporters in the capital.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said that he could not confirm any link between the attacker in Monday’s shooting and the insurgency. In previous insider attacks, the Taliban have quickly claimed responsibility and identified the assailants.

Helmand officials also reported that 10 Afghan soldiers were killed in an attack on a checkpoint in the south, and five either were kidnapped or joined their assailants. Daoud Ahmadi, the provincial spokesman, said insurgents attacked the checkpoint in Washir district Sunday evening. Four soldiers were wounded, he said. The Afghan Defense Ministry said the checkpoint was attacked by more than 100 insurgents.

Mr. Ahmadi said the five missing soldiers left with the insurgents, but it was unclear if they were kidnapped or went voluntarily.

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