US general killed in Afghanistan

 

By Kristina Wong

U.S. forces suffered their highest-ranking fatality during the war in Afghanistan Tuesday, when a two-star general was killed at close range by an Afghan soldier.

 The killing was the first of its kind — termed "green-on-blue" attacks — in months. It sent shockwaves through the U.S. military, coming as NATO's 12-year combat mission is drawing to a planned close this December.

The Associated Press named the officer late Tuesday afternoon as Major General Harold Greene. 

Around 15 people were wounded in the shooting, including some Americans. Details remained sketchy for several hours afterwards, though the central reported fact was that an individual dressed in an Afghan Army uniform fired into a group of coalition troops at a military officers’ academy in Kabul. 

Despite the release of the general’s name through news outlets, the Pentagon has not officially identified him. It has, however, said that the shooter was killed. The shooting is under investigation, according to Pentagon Spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The incident raises questions as to the preparedness of Afghan troops to handle security threats as the United States prepares to disengage from Afghanistan. 

"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 -- of that progress," Kirby said, referring to the Afghan security forces.

"I don't see any impact to the current plans to draw down our forces in Afghanistan and to further support the Resolute Support Mission next year," he added. 

The United States is scheduled to draw down from about 30,000 troops in Afghanistan currently, to 9,800 by December 2014, and then to roughly half that by December 2015. The plan calls for only a token number of troops to remain, mainly charged with securing the U.S. embassy, by December 2016. 

However, the United States has yet to sign a bilateral security agreement with Afghanistan that would allow U.S. troops to remain in the country after December. 

The shooting could provide war critics inside and outside the administration with an argument that the United States should speed up that timeline – or delay its departure. 

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the incident highlighted the importance of U.S. troops staying in the country beyond the time stated in the existing plan. 

"The event only underscores the importance of leaving Afghanistan when the job is finished — rather than stubbornly adhering to arbitrary political deadlines," he said in a statement Tuesday. 

The shooting also raises questions as to whether Taliban and insurgent forces will mount a comeback after U.S. and NATO troops end their combat mission in December. 

U.S. troops are expected to be in close contact with Afghan troops as they continue their advisory and counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan post-2014. 

A number of lawmakers have questioned whether Afghanistan will go the way of Iraq, which is now struggling to contain an ascendant radical Islamist group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

Still, some experts cautioned against overreacting to Tuesday’s attack. 

"If you allow yourself to respond to every high-profile attack by cutting back [cooperation with Afghan forces], you're going to be defeated," said Anthony Cordesman, a defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 

Cordesman said that within the last two years, the Taliban and insurgents have shifted tactics, becoming less inclined to confront coalition troops on the battlefield and more focused on high-profile one-off attacks on U.S. and Western targets. 

"Tragic as the casualties are, this is the price of war," he said. 

In 2012, attacks by Afghan soldiers on their coalition trainers, also known as "insider attacks" increased sharply and threatened to disrupt the NATO effort to train Afghan forces. 

However, coalition officials then implemented new security measures, such as biometric screening of Afghan recruits, and started the "Guardian Angel" program, under which coalition forces kept an eye on Afghan soldiers being trained by their U.S. and NATO counterparts. 

The Pentagon said the attack would not degrade trust between coalition and Afghan troops. 

"Every indication that I've seen is that the partnering and the cooperation just gets better and better every week," Kirby insisted. 

—This story was first published at 11:23 a.m. and last updated at 6:00 p.m.  

Justin Sink contributed.