Penn Valley soldier wounded in ‘green-on-blue’ attack |

Penn Valley soldier wounded in ‘green-on-blue’ attack

Trina Kleist, Staff Writer
and Amir Shah, Associated Press

A Penn Valley mother is asking for the prayers of the community as her son, a U.S. Army soldier, recovers from wounds inflicted in Afghanistan.

Specialist Brandon Walden, 20, was among five U.S. Army soldiers wounded in an attack by an Afghan army recruit Tuesday in eastern Afghanistan. He was shot three times in the attack, and one of the wounds was to the abdomen, said his mother, Laura Cummins.

After surgery to stabilize him at an International Security Assistance Forces hospital, Walden was flown in a medication-induced coma to Germany, Cummins said.

He remained in the hospital’s intensive care unit late Thursday, awaiting additional surgery expected early today, Cummins said.

“We did get to talk with Brandon (by telephone), and he was able to physically respond, all real good signs,” Cummins said.

“I’m just asking for lots of prayers from the community,” Cummins said. “I’m very grateful he’s alive… I just pray God keeps him alive and heals him.”

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Earlier Thursday, Walden was responding to commands to tap his fingers, Cummins said. When Walden gets better, he will be sent to Texas, where Cummins hopes to visit him soon, she said.

On Tuesday evening, a man wearing an Afghan army uniform opened fire outside a NATO base in eastern Afghanistan, wounding five American soldiers, an Afghan police official told The Associated Press Wednesday.

The shooter escaped, according to the U.S. military publication Stars and Stripes.

Walden had been scheduled to ship out of Afghanistan on Thursday, Cummins said. The family is planning his Aug. 17 wedding to Raina Sedano, also of Penn Valley. The two met at the Nevada County Fair last year, Sedano said.

“He’s strong. He’ll make it,” Sedano said of her fiance, but she was unsure whether the wedding would go on as planned.

Walden grew up in Nevada County and graduated in 2010 through a program with the Nevada Joint Union High School District, Cummins said. He joined the Army in October 2010, training at Ft. Benning, Ga., and winding up an infrantryman stationed out of Ft. Bliss, Texas.

“He’s a real solid person. He was always helping out with his youth group” when he was with Interstate Youth Ministries, she added. “He’s done real well as a soldier.”

Afghan civilians were talking to the soldiers outside their base when a man in an Afghan army uniform opened fire on them with a machine gun, a witness to the attack told the AP.

“The Americans were standing on the other side of us while we were standing with a translator. Suddenly, the Afghan soldier aimed his machine gun on them and started shooting,” said a man who identified himself only as “Eman.”

The wounded soldiers were evacuated by helicopter, while the others “took us aside in fear of a possible gun battle,” Eman said. The Afghan who opened fire escaped toward some trees and into a nearby village, he added.

The U.S.-led coalition confirmed to the AP that a number of its service members were shot and wounded by a man in an Afghan army uniform Tuesday in Wardak province’s Sayed Abad district.

The coalition maintains a large base there, but NATO officials did not say where in the district the attack took place or what happened to the assailant. An investigation into the incident was underway, officials told the AP.

“Special Forces are after him,” Sedano said.

Wardak, close to Kabul, is considered a Taliban hotbed and has been the scene of heavy fighting over the past year, AP reported.

Walden and his buddies have seen frequent combat since he arrived there nine months ago, including his squad being ambushed in the spring, Cummins said.

“He’s seen the worst combat,” she added. “My son is a most amazing man!.”

On last year’s anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States, a truck bomb outside the same coalition base wounded 77 American soldiers and killed five Afghan civilians, AP reported.

Sayed Abad is seven miles east of the Tangi Valley, where the Taliban on Aug. 6, 2011, shot down a U.S. military helicopter, killing 30 Americans – the largest single loss of American lives in the war, AP reported.

The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 after the ruling Taliban refused to turn over 9/11 attack mastermind Osama bin Laden, who was hiding in the mountainous nation. At the time, Taliban leaders said the U.S. had no proof of bin Laden’s guilt, according to a CNN report at the time.

It’s the longest-running war in American history.

Tuesday’s shooting was the latest likely case of a “green-on-blue” attack in which Afghan soldiers or insurgents disguised in their uniforms turn their weapons on coalition troops, Stars and Stripes reported.

The number of insider attacks against foreign forces in Afghanistan has increased this year, undermining the trust between allies and efforts to prepare Afghan troops to take over their own security as international combat troops prepare to withdraw by 2014, the AP reported.

On Sunday, an Afghan policeman shot and killed three British soldiers at a checkpoint in Helmand province. The shooter was arrested, Stars and Stripes reported.

Lt. Cmdr. Brian Badura, an ISAF spokesman, said the number of green-on-blue incidents is low relative to the number of Afghan troops and police working with ISAF forces. Nevertheless, the coalition was working with Afghan counterparts on safety measures when recruiting troops, he told Stars and Stripes.

“First and foremost, ISAF is getting together with our Afghan National Security Partners on the vetting and process they use,” Badura told Stars and Stripes. “What we’re trying to do is make sure that any of the mitigation does not damage the trust we’ve built between the (Afghan forces) and coalition units.”

At least 80 NATO coalition troops have been killed by the Afghans they were working with since 2009, according to Pentagon statistics reported by Stars and Stripes. That includes 26 deaths in 18 attacks this year, AP reported.

That compares with 11 fatal attacks and 20 deaths the previous year. In 2007 and 2008, there were a combined total of four attacks and four deaths, Stars and Stripes reported.

Officials do not routinely report such attacks where troops are wounded unless asked, AP reported.

A total of 221 foreign troops have been killed this year, including five in July, AP reported.

Efforts to draw down the number of U.S. and other foreign troops in Afghanistan rely on them working closely with their Afghan partners to train and mentor them so that they can take over the security of their country by the end of 2014, AP reported.

Associated Press writer Patrick Quinn and Stars and Stripes reporter Heath Druzin contributed to this report. To contact Senior Staff Writer Trina Kleist, email or call (530) 477-4230.

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