U.S. General Killed in Insider Attack in Afghanistan

An Afghan Army soldier opened fire during a meeting of high-ranking American, NATO and Afghan military officials on Tuesday.

US soldiers patrol near Kandahar Airfield on June 3, 2014. Members of the 1st Battalion, 12th Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division patrolled areas near Kandahar Airfield to protect the base from rocket attacks, and also visited Afghan police and polling stations to check on the security for the upcoming presidential election runoff. 
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Stephanie Gaskell, Defense One
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Stephanie Gaskell, Defense One
Aug. 5, 2014, 11:43 a.m.

An Afghan Army sol­dier opened fire dur­ing a meet­ing of high-rank­ing Amer­ic­an, NATO, and Afghan mil­it­ary of­fi­cials on Tues­day, killing a U.S. Army ma­jor gen­er­al and wound­ing a Ger­man bri­gadier gen­er­al and as many as 14 oth­er co­ali­tion forces, of­fi­cials said.

The brazen at­tack took place at the Mar­shal Fahim Na­tion­al De­fense Uni­versity in Ka­bul City, where In­ter­na­tion­al Se­cur­ity As­sist­ance Forces, ISAF, are train­ing of­ficers of the Afghan Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Forces. Many were “ser­i­ously wounded,” said Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokes­man.

The at­tack­er was killed at the scene, though it’s un­clear who killed him. “We be­lieve this in­di­vidu­al was a mem­ber of the Afghan se­cur­ity force,” Kirby said, adding that a joint ISAF-Afghan in­vest­ig­a­tion is un­der­way. “As I un­der­stand it, it as a routine vis­it to the Na­tion­al De­fense Uni­versity, which is akin to sort of their of­ficers’ academy.”

Kirby would not re­lease in­form­a­tion about the fallen U.S. Army two-star gen­er­al un­til his fam­ily could be no­ti­fied. Of­fi­cials be­lieve he is the highest-rank­ing solider to be killed in Afgh­anistan. “I’m loath to make a his­tor­ic­al state­ment now,” Kirby said. “If not the [highest-rank­ing], cer­tainly one of the highest-rank­ing.”

As the war winds down and the Afghan mil­it­ary takes the lead in en­sur­ing its own se­cur­ity, the in­sider at­tack high­lights the in­creas­ing dif­fi­culty of con­trolling Afghan mil­it­ary in­stall­a­tions. “We don’t con­trol the vet­ting of the Afghans. The Afghans do,” said Ret. Air Force Lt. Col. Rick Francona, a mil­it­ary ana­lyst for CNN. “They con­trol who has ac­cess.” In­sider at­tacks in­creased to an alarm­ing level in 2012. Since then, ISAF of­fi­cials have put sev­er­al meas­ures in place to help pro­tect co­ali­tion troops, such as re­stric­tions on where weapons can be car­ried. But, as Francona said, “You’re at the mercy of the Afghans be­cause it be­comes their fa­cil­ity.”

ISAF of­fi­cials es­tab­lished sev­er­al new pro­ced­ures to take pre­cau­tions after a spate of in­sider at­tacks in 2012, but Kirby said it’s im­possible to pre­vent them com­pletely. “ISAF did in­sti­tute some meas­ures to help mit­ig­ate the threat,” he said, “not elim­in­ate it, but mit­ig­ate it.”

“Afgh­anistan is still a war zone, so it’s im­possible to com­pletely elim­in­ate that threat, par­tic­u­larly in a place like Afgh­anistan, but you can work hard to mit­ig­ate it,” he said, adding that the drop in such at­tacks is a “test­a­ment to the good work au­thor­it­ies have done in ISAF to mit­ig­ate that.”

In a state­ment, Afghan Pres­id­ent Ham­id Kar­zai said the at­tack was car­ried out by people who “don’t want to see Afgh­anistan have strong in­sti­tu­tions.” De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel called ISAF Com­mand­er Gen. Joseph Dun­ford, who re­as­sured him that the trust between ISAF and Afghan forces was still strong. The Afghans “con­tin­ue to per­form at a very strong level of con­fid­ence and com­pet­ence,” Kirby said, and their abil­ity “grows stronger by the week.”

“I’ve seen no in­dic­a­tion that there’s a de­grad­a­tion of trust,” Kirby said.

The at­tack also comes as ISAF pre­pares for a change of com­mand. Dun­ford will head to Wash­ing­ton soon to be­come the next Mar­ine Corps com­mand­ant and Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John Camp­bell is head­ing to Ka­bul later this month to re­place Dun­ford. Camp­bell will es­sen­tially bring the war to its of­fi­cial end after more than 13 years. Camp­bell will over­see the draw­down of U.S. troops, which will shrink to a re­sid­ual force of 9,800 by the end of this year.

Re­cent re­ports in­dic­ate that the Taliban has been gain­ing ground dur­ing this fight­ing sea­son, and some of­fi­cials have ex­pressed the con­cern that they’re just wait­ing out the draw­down of ISAF forces. Yet U.S. mil­it­ary lead­ers have said that any re­cent gains made by the Taliban are fleet­ing, as they are un­able to hold any ter­rit­ory.

“I don’t see any im­pact to the cur­rent plans to draw­down our forces in Afgh­anistan,” Kirby said.

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