A shooting at a training academy for the Afghan military in Kabul killed at least one member of the U.S.-led military coalition and wounded more than a dozen others Tuesday, the coalition said.
A two-star U.S. Army general was killed, according to media reports. If confirmed, the combat death of the general would make him the highest-ranking U.S. service member killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. The German military said the attack occurred at 12:23 p.m. in Kabul and wounded a German brigadier general, according to the German Embassy in Washington.
“We are in the process of assessing the situation,” the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) coalition said in a statement. “More information will be released as we sort out the facts.”
The attack occurred at the Marshal Fahim National Defense University, ISAF said. The facility, in the Qarga district of Kabul, was known as the Afghan National Defense University until earlier this year, when it was renamed after an Afghan vice president, a former military commander who died in March of an undisclosed illness.
The New York Times reported that the U.S. general was shot at close range. The German military said that one of its brigadier generals was wounded but “is not in a life-threatening condition,” according to the German media site Deutsche Welle.
A spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, Gen. Mohammed Zahir Azimi, said he had no information about the killing of an American general in the attack. He said only that one NATO service member had died and that 15 other military personnel were wounded, including three Afghan troops. There were reports that several German troops and officers were wounded.
Azimi and other Afghan officials described the attacker as a “terrorist dressed in an Afghan army uniform,” who opened fire on a delegation of NATO military visitors at the main Afghan defense academy west of Kabul. Azimi said the attacker was immediately shot and killed by Afghan forces inside the compound.
Sources at the Afghan Defense Ministry said the attacker was a member of the Afghan National Army for the past two years and was from southeastern Afghanistan. They did not identify him. They said he used a light assault rifle to open fire on the foreign military delegation before he was fatally shot by Afghan forces.
A U.S. Army official at the Pentagon referred comment Tuesday morning to ISAF.
President Hamid Karzai said in a statement that the victims of the attack were visiting the academy as part of an effort “to help us build up the Afghan security forces.” He blamed the assault on “enemies who don’t want to see Afghanistan have strong institutions.”
The academy is a centerpiece of the coalition’s plan to train the Afghan military. It has been described by U.S. military officials as “the West Point of Afghanistan,” a reference to the U.S. Army’s military academy in New York state.
The shooting Tuesday was one of the first major incidents of so-called insider attacks against Western forces in Afghanistan in recent months. Such attacks by Afghan trainees or soldiers against their Western instructors or colleagues grew in frequency over the past several years but tapered off as a result of stricter security and screening measures at military facilities.
However, the number and scope of Taliban insurgent attacks has been increasing in recent months, with dozens of deadly incidents involving unusually large numbers of insurgents. Officials have said the Taliban is testing the strength of Afghan security forces as American and NATO troops continue their withdrawal and prepare to place the nation’s defense largely in Afghan hands.
Insider attacks have been a core concern of coalition troops in Afghanistan for years. As of June 24, there had been 87 there since 2008, killing 142 coalition troops and wounding an additional 165, according to a tally kept by the Long War Journal.
The motives for the attacks have varied. In some cases, insurgents have infiltrated the Afghan military and police and waited for the opportunity to ambush coalition troops. In others, Afghan troops have attacked the coalition troops training them after feeling personally offended, military officials have said.
The worst year for insider attacks in Afghanistan was 2012, when 44 attacks killed 61 coalition troops, according to the Long War Journal. The rash of attacks that year prompted significant changes in the way Western and Afghan military service members interact. They included appointing “guardian angel” service members to stand guard while coalition troops and Afghans worked together. Insider attacks have been significantly down this year, with two recorded.