A gunman believed to be an Afghan soldier opened fire at a training facility in Kabul Tuesday and killed an American general — one of the highest-ranked military deaths since 9/11, a Pentagon spokesman said.
“Perhaps up to 15” coalition troops, including other Americans, were wounded in the attack, said Rear Adm. John Kirby.
The general’s killing marks “one of the highest-ranking deaths in the war since 9/11,” Kirby said, describing the gunman, who was wearing an Afghan military uniform, as someone who had served for some time in a unit of the Afghan armed forces.
The general was not being identified pending notification of his family, Kirby added. ISAF and Afghan forces are jointly investigating the attack, the spokesman said.
The bloodshed happened at Marshal Fahim National Defense University in Kabul, said NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in a statement, clarifying earlier information from ISAF which reported that the shooting happened at Camp Qargha.
Earlier, the German military said that the violence broke out during a “key leader” event, and that one person was killed and 14 were injured, including a German brigadier general.
The Afghan Defense Ministry described the shooter as a “terrorist” and said Afghan soldiers shot him dead.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid praised the gunman in a statement released Tuesday, but the statement did not claim responsibility for the violence.
In the past, people dressed in Afghan security forces uniforms have attacked coalition forces who have worked to thwart such violence.
In 2012, so-called “green on blue” attacks took the lives of dozens of coalition troops, and the U.S. command in Kabul halted some joint operations with Afghan security forces, CNN has previously reported.
Two attackers wearing Afghan military uniforms killed two U.S. service members in February in Afghanistan, the military publication Stars and Stripes reported.
In October 2013, a man in an Afghan soldier’s uniform shot and killed an ISAF member in eastern Afghanistan, CNN reported.
According to an April 2013 Pentagon report, insider attacks against ISAF forces declined from 48 attacks in 2012 to 15 attacks in 2013. In the first quarter of 2014, there were two insider attacks against ISAF.
“Despite this sharp decline, these attacks may still have strategic effects on the campaign and could jeopardize the relationship between coalition and ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] personnel,” the report reads.
Kirby called insider attacks “a pernicious threat” that are “difficult to always ascertain, to come to grips with… anywhere, particularly in a place like Afghanistan.”
“Afghanistan is still a war zone.”
“It’s impossible to eliminate that threat (of insider attacks) but you can work hard to mitigate it” and ISAF has done that, he said.
In February the Obama administration said it had begun planning for the possible withdrawal of all U.S. troops by the end of 2014 if Afghanistan did not sign a security agreement pertaining to rights of U.S. troops operating there.
Kirby told reporters Tuesday that Afghan National Security Forces “continue to perform at a very strong level of competence and confidence, and warfare capability.”
He said that the U.S. military feels that the Afghan military “grows stronger by the week” and noted that they are already “in the lead in combat missions” throughout the country.
“They’ll be completely in the lead for military operations by the end of the year,” Kirby said. “We see no change in that.”