A U.S. major general became the highest ranking American to be killed since the start of the war in Afghanistan when a shooter in an Afghan uniform opened fire on a delegation of coalition officials.
Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby, who didn’t release the name of the fallen pending notification of the next of kin, told reporters that there is currently “no indications” that the shooter “wasn’t anything other than a member of the Afghan national security forces.”
Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Zahir Azimi, though, told local media that the attack was carried out by a terrorist who had disguised himself in an Afghan army uniform.
“I can confirm that an individual believed to be an Afghan soldier fired today into a group of coalition troops at the Marshal Fahim National Defense University in Kabul City, Afghanistan. There are a number of casualties as a result of the shooting, perhaps up to 15, to include some Americans. Many were seriously wounded. Others received only minor injuries. The assailant was killed,” Kirby said.
“I can also confirm that among the casualties was an American general officer who was killed. Given that the family notification process is not yet complete, I cannot and will not release any additional information about the general. I’m sure you can understand that we want to respect the notification process and the family’s privacy at this time,” he continued. “The incident will be jointly investigated by Afghan and ISAF authorities. That investigation is just now getting underway. We need to let it proceed before speculating about any specific circumstances.”
Kirby said the officers were on “a routine visit” to the institution, “which is akin to their sort of officers academy.”
“But I would point you to ISAF for the exact details. I don’t know. It was a routine site visit is how I understand it… not all of the casualties are American. There were other coalition members that fell victim to this shooting. So as I understand it, it was a coalition — an ISAF site visit to the university. I really don’t have any more details than that about how long they’d been there, what were they looking at. I just don’t know,” he said.
The International Security Assistance Force was sketchy with details, simply noting that “at this time, ISAF can confirm one ISAF service member was killed” and the “incident is under investigation.”
Afghanistan’s TOLO News reported that one of the seven U.S. soldiers wounded was a brigadier general and one of the three Afghan officers wounded was a general. Also reportedly wounded were five Brits and one German.
Kirby responded to reports that the shooter was vetted through the facility’s rigorous security procedures. “Too soon to tell on what this means for the vetting process. Again, we believe this individual was a member of the Afghan national security forces. We need to let the investigation proceed to figure out exactly who this was before we can leap to any conclusions about the vetting process,” he said.
The spokesman stressed that the Afghan National Security Forces “continue to perform at a very strong level of competence and confidence, and warfare capability.”
“They have had a good year securing not one, but two national elections, and stopping or minimizing the impact of countless numbers of attacks throughout the country, even in Kabul,” Kirby continued. “So, this is a security force that we believe grows stronger by the week and 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. We see no change in that, no degradation of that progress.”
“I’ve seen no indication that there is a degradation of trust between the coalition members and their Afghan counterparts… the partnering and the cooperation just — you know, it gets better and better every week. And I think, again, that’s borne in — that’s borne out in the performance that we’ve seen out of Afghan National Security Forces.”
Kirby said he believed that the major general’s death was the highest-ranking U.S. military casualty since a three-star general was killed in the Pentagon on 9/11.
TOLO News reported that Afghan officials are still questioning who fired first.
“Investigations are underway to make clear who fired first,” Paktia Governor Zalmai Oryakhail said. “One ISAF soldier was wounded and the guard who was injured in the gunfire died upon arriving to the hospital.”
“President Karzai described the attack on ANA personnel and foreign trainers who were visiting the military academy installations and helping with the buildup of Afghan security forces as an act by the enemies who don’t want to see Afghanistan have strong institutions,” the presidential palace said in a statement.