U.S. General Is Killed in Attack at Afghan Base; Others Injured
By MATTHEW ROSENBERG and HELENE COOPER, The New York Times
AUG. 5, 2014
For the first time since Vietnam, a United States Army general was killed in an overseas conflict on Tuesday when an Afghan soldier opened fire on senior American officers at a military training academy.
The general was among a group of senior American and Afghan officers making a routine visit to Afghanistan’s premier military academy on the outskirts of Kabul when an Afghan soldier sprayed the officers with bullets from the window of a nearby building, hitting at least 15 before he was killed.
There was no indication that either of the attackers were members of the Taliban, or that their acts were coordinated. The insurgents did not claim the attackers as their own, instead hailing them as hero soldiers. American officials said they had no reason to suspect the gunman at the military academy was anything but an ordinary Afghan soldier whose motivations remained a mystery.
But scores of these so-called insider attacks have plagued the American military in recent years, and Afghan and American commanders believe the vast majority have been carried out by Afghan soldiers and police alienated and angered by the protracted war in their country, and the corrupt and ineffectual government that the United States has left in place. Few of the attacks are believed to have been results of coordinated Taliban plots.
With foreign troops having largely ceded their front-line role to Afghan forces in the past two years, training and advising Afghans is one of the few crucial roles still played here by the coalition. American soldiers largely stay out of the Taliban’s line of fire, but they must still maintain close contact with Afghan soldiers and policemen. Foreign forces have few options for protecting themselves, short of cutting off contact with the Afghans.
But that would make the training mission impossible, as General Greene, 55, most likely knew. He was one of the most senior officers overseeing the transition from a war led and fought by foreign troops to one conducted by Afghan forces. His specialty was logistics – he was a longtime acquisitions officer – and he had been dispatched to Afghanistan to help the Afghan military address one of its most potentially debilitating weaknesses: an inability to manage soldiers and weaponry.
Compared with the infantry grunts who did tours of duty in the Taliban-infested hinterlands of Afghanistan, General Greene had an assignment that appeared to carry far less risk. Yet on Tuesday, he became one of the more than 2,300 American service members killed in Afghanistan.
Afghan troops’ rocky past offers clues into shooting that killed U.S. general
By Pamela Constable, Washington Post
August 6, 2014
The army, the most professional and popular of the new defense forces, has drawn recruits from across the country who have been expected to replace local and ethnic loyalties with adherence to a national government and its defense. The aim has been to forge an army of about 80,000 men and officers who could be weaned from foreign tutelage by now and prepared to take on the Taliban alone, then gradually grow to as many as 120,000 troops.
From the beginning, however, the project has been plagued with problems. Soldiers have gone AWOL and deserted in high numbers. Ethnic imbalances between officers and troops have been sources of envy and friction. Equipment has been old and expensive to replace.
The fatal attack on Tuesday was an acute embarrassment to the Afghan military leadership, because it occurred inside the Afghan equivalent of the U.S. military academy at West Point, and was aimed at a Western VIP delegation that had come to assess the army’s progress in being able to defend the nation as Western forces prepare to leave.
Officials said there was no indication that he was part of a conspiracy or had Taliban sympathies. But the timing of the attack was particularly sensitive, with presidential elections derailed by charges of fraud and an audit of all 8.1 million ballots repeatedly suspended by disagreements. Afghans are hoping to have a new leader inaugurated in time for a NATO summit in early September, and a stalled bilateral security agreement between Afghanistan and the United States is on hold until a new government takes office in Kabul.
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 U.S. and NATO troops continue their withdrawal and prepare to place the nation’s defense largely in Afghan hands.
Several analysts in Kabul said the attack exposed deep flaws in the control and competence of Afghan military leaders, who had apparently not prepared adequate security for the foreign visit. They also said it revealed ongoing problems with the army’s lax recruitment policies and faltering efforts to build a loyal, unified fighting force after more than a decade of foreign investment and training.
“This sad event is a major blow to our international alliances, and it shows that we cannot build trustworthy and credible military institutions,” said Javed Kohistani, a military analyst, former Afghan army officer and former national intelligence officer. “Whoever was behind this attack has achieved their highest goal. It is no coincidence that a two-star American general was killed.”