‘Insider Attack’ in Kabul Kills US General, Wounds 15 Others
A man wearing an Afghan army uniform has shot and killed a U.S. general and wounded a number of American and international troops in what appears to be another “insider attack” by a member of Afghanistan’s security forces.
A U.S. official and Afghan officials confirmed that someone wearing an Afghan military uniform opened fire about 12 p.m. local time at the camp where international forces train Afghan National Army officers.
An Afghan Defense Ministry statement described the attacker as a “terrorist” and said he had been killed.
Speaking to reporters in Washington, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby confirmed that an American general was killed, but did not identify him. Kirby said international and Afghan forces would jointly investigate the attack.
“We believe this individual was a member of the Afghan security forces,” he said. “We need to let the investigation proceed to find out exactly who this was before we can leap to any conclusions about the vetting process.”
The American major general, the highest ranking U.S. official to be killed in Afghanistan in the 13-year conflict, was reportedly shot at close range during what Kirby called a “routine site visit” by senior officers to the Marshal Fahim National Defense University in Kabul.
A Taliban spokesman reported the attack on its Twitter account, adding that a senior Italian military officer had also been killed. The militant group did not claim responsibility for the killings.
Also injured were a number of other members of the international security force in Afghanistan, including a German brigadier general.
In a statement, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed that the attack took place at a British military training academy in the capital. It said one ISAF service member was killed, without giving details, and that the incident was under investigation.
According to the Afghan official, seven U.S. soldiers and five British troops were also among the wounded. Officials in Kabul also said three Afghan officers were wounded.
The total number of foreign casualties was not immediately clear.
The U.S. official said that some of the injuries were serious as the gunman shot at fairly close range, according to the French news agency AFP.
The United Nations in Afghanistan described the shooting as a tragedy.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the shooting and offered his condolences to all the victims. He said the delegation had been visiting the facility to help build Afghanistan’s security forces.
The gunman was using a light machine gun, according to the U.S. official.
In recent years, there have been dozens of instances in which Afghan forces turned their weapons on coalition forces, killing scores of troops from the U.S. and elsewhere and creating mistrust between the joint patrols.
The attacks have also complicated efforts to train Afghanistan’s new 350,000-strong security force.
As of August 1, the U.S. had 30,600 troops in Afghanistan and 17,100 allied troops.
So-called “insider attacks” – incidents in which Afghan security turn on their NATO partners – largely dropped last year.
In 2013, there were 16 deaths in 10 separate attacks. In 2012, such attacks killed 53 coalition troops in 38 separate attacks.
While some officials in the Afghan government believe most of these attacks result from Taliban infiltration, U.S. officials have said most of the incidents are the result of personal animosity or cultural misunderstanding.
Others are attributed to personal disputes or resentment by Afghans who have soured on the continued international presence in their country more than a dozen years after the fall of the Taliban’s ultra-conservative Islamic regime.
In 2012, dozens of incidents forced international troops to take measures to reduce interaction with their Afghan partners and since then, the number of insider attacks has fallen sharply.
Despite the decrease in the number of insider attacks, Kirby said the threat could not be eliminated.
“Afghanistan is still a war zone,” he said. “So it’s impossible to eliminate – completely eliminate – that threat, I think, particularly in a place like Afghanistan. But you can work hard to mitigate it and minimize it, and ISAF has done that.”
In a second, similar attack on Tuesday, several troops were wounded in eastern Paktia province when a policeman opened fire on international and Afghan forces, police chief Zalmay Oryakhil told Reuters.
Such attacks’ are sometimes claimed by the Taliban insurgency as proof of their infiltration.
Adding to the tensions between the allies on Tuesday, a NATO airstrike hit a vehicle carrying civilians in western Herat province, local officials said, killing four members of one family including two children.
“We strongly condemn the killings by foreign troops and we have reported this to the presidential palace,” deputy provincial governor, Aseeluddin Jameh, told Reuters.
The family was returning from a wedding in Shindand district.
Jeff Seldin contributed to this report from the Pentagon. Ayaz Gul contributed to this report from Pakistan. Some information for this report provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.