- Associated Press - Monday, December 24, 2012

KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan policewoman walked into a high-security compound in Kabul Monday and killed an American contractor with a single bullet to the chest, the first such shooting by a woman in a spate of insider attacks by Afghans against their foreign allies.

Afghan officials who provided details identified the attacker as police Sgt. Nargas, a mother of four with a clean record.

The shooting was outside police headquarters in a walled compound that houses the governor’s office, courts and a prison in the heart of the capital.

A police official said Sgt. Nargas was able to enter the compound armed because she is licensed to carry a weapon as a police officer.

The American, whose identity was not released, was a civilian adviser who worked with the NATO command.

He was shot as he came out of a small shop, Kabul Gov. Abdul Jabar Taqwa told The Associated Press. The woman refused to explain her motive for her attack, he said.

The fact that a woman was behind the assault shocked some Afghans.

“I was very shaken when I heard the news,” said Nasrullah Sadeqizada, an independent member of Parliament.

According to NATO, about 1,400 women were serving in the Afghan police force midyear and 350 in the army — still a very small proportion of the 350,000 in both services.

Such professions still generally are frowned upon in this conservative society, but women have made significant gains in recent years, with most jobs and education opportunities open to them, at least by law if not always in practice.

This is in stark contrast to the repression they suffered under the former Taliban regime, which forced women to be virtual prisoners in their homes and severely punished them for even small infractions of their draconian codes.

The NATO command said that while the investigation continued, “some temporary, prudent measures [might be] put into place to reduce the exposure of our people.”

But NATO spokesman Air Force Lt. Col. Lester T. Carroll said the vital mission of training the Afghan police remained “unchanged.”

There have been more than 60 insider attacks this year against foreign military and civilian personnel.

The attacks represent another looming security issue as President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai prepare to meet early next year to discuss the pullout of NATO troops from Afghanistan by 2014 and the size and nature of a residual force the U.S. will keep in the country.

Insider attacks by Afghan soldiers or police have accelerated this year as NATO forces, due to mostly withdraw from the country by 2014, have sped up efforts to train and advise Afghan security before the pullout.

The surge in such attacks is throwing doubt on the capability of the Afghan security forces to take over from international troops and has further undermined public support for the war in NATO countries.