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U.S. Army General Killed, 15 Others Wounded, In Insider Attack In Afghanistan

An American Army General has apparently been killed in an insider attack by someone dressed in an Afghan military uniform who opened fire at a base in Kabul:

KABUL, Afghanistan — A United States Army major general was killed on Tuesday by an Afghan soldier, shot at close range at a military training academy on the outskirts of Kabul, officials of the American-led coalition said Tuesday. The officer was the highest-ranking member of the American military to die in hostilities in the Afghanistan war.

The coalition officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity and would not release the name of the major general, said an unspecified number of other service members of the American-led coalition and Afghan soldiers, including a senior Afghan commander, also were shot. Their conditions were not immediately known.

Other details of the shooting were sketchy, and the coalition, in an official statement, would only confirm that one of its service members had been killed in what it described as “an incident” at the Marshall Fahim National Defense University in Kabul. The coalition declined to specify any further details, saying it was still working to notify the family of the deceased.

Tensions at the military academy ran high in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, which took place around noon, and foreign troops appeared to be on edge, fearful of another attack.

Massoud Hossaini, a photographer for The Associated Press, said that he arrived at the camp’s gate ahead of other journalists, and just as coalition armored vehicles were pulling out of the compound. A coalition soldier manning the roof-mounted gun on one of the vehicles shouted for Mr. Hossaini to “get away,” and then fired an apparent warning shot.

“I don’t know what he fired. It was fired near our car,” he said, adding that he left the scene straight away.

The Afghan Defense Ministry said in a statement that a “few people were wounded” in the shooting, and that they had been immediately evacuated to a hospital. It described the attacker as “wearing Afghan National Army uniform,” which has long been a standard description offered after Afghan troops attack their foreign counterparts.

Other Afghan and coalition officials said they believed the shooter was an Afghan soldier. The coalition, in its brief statement, said the incident had involved “local Afghan and ISAF troops,” using the initials for the International Security Assistance Force, the formal name of the NATO-led coalition.

Other reports put the number of wounded as high as 15.

This would be the first death of an American General in a foreign combat situation since the Vietnam War, although I suppose it is fair to point out that this seems to qualify more like an assassination even though there is no evidence as of yet that the General in question was directly targeted. If nothing else, though, this serves as a reminder that, although the war in Afghanistan is winding down from an American point of view, our soldiers there remain in danger even from the people purported to be our allies. That will continue to be true, I think, until the last American solider leaves.

Update: The General has been identified as Major General Harold Greene.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Rafer Janders says:

    This would be the first death of an American General in a foreign combat situation since the Vietnam War, although I suppose it is fair to point out that this seems to qualify more like an assassination even though there is no evidence as of yet that the General in question was directly targeted.

    How is that an assassination? An assassination is generally considered a crime, whereas this is the death of a uniformed soldier due to enemy fire in a combat zone. It’s war.

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  2. Rafer Janders says:

    Just to add to this, a general or other commander is absolutely a legitimate target for the enemy. Killing a general is no more an “assassination” than is the death of, say, a private due to sniper fire.

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  3. DrDaveT says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    whereas this is the death of a uniformed soldier due to enemy fire in a combat zone

    Enemy fire? We’re not at war with the government of Afghanistan. You either have to classify this as “friendly fire”, or (if deliberate) a criminal act by a member of the Afghan armed forces while in uniform.

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  4. Ron Beasley says:

    As The Animals said decades ago – We Gotta Get Out Of This Place.

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  5. Rafer Janders says:

    @DrDaveT:

    But we’re at war with the Taliban and other rebel forces inside Afghanistan. If the shooter was a Taliban adherent, as seems likely, then this is part of that conflict.

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  6. @Rafer Janders:

    Assassination in the sense that someone was specifically targeting this officer, or General Officers in general. Indeed, according to one report there was also a German General who was injured in this attack.

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  7. rodney dill says:

    In this case the status of the shooter would be ‘spy’ or at best (for the shooter) unlawful combatant. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unlawful_combatant
    Putting crime back into the realm of possibility.

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  8. DrDaveT says:

    Fatuous quote of the day — Rep. Buck McKeon on the attack:

    I’m saddened by the loss of life in Afghanistan today. Because the Taliban has been unable to succeed militarily against Afghan and coalition forces, they are continuing to conduct cowardly, headline-grabbing insider attacks. Many Americans and their allies have fallen in the effort to defeat a terrible enemy, and this incident demonstrates their courage in the face of danger. The event only underscores the importance of leaving Afghanistan when the job is finished — rather than stubbornly adhering to arbitrary political deadlines.

    So, is he an idiot who doesn’t know that “when the job is finished” means “not in the lifetime of any living person”, or is he a partisan stooge who doesn’t mind getting more Americans killed, so long as he can blame it on Obama?

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  9. DrDaveT says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    But we’re at war with the Taliban

    No, we’re not — unless you want to stretch the definition of “war” to include any situation in which organized groups of people are shooting at each other. In which case, the normal legal rules regarding “war” no longer apply. The government of Afghanistan and its ally the US are fighting a multifaceted insurgency led by the Taliban and other groups. That is not a war, any more than the US actions against the Branch Davidians or the Montana militas were “wars”. Only the scale is different.

    If the shooter was a Taliban adherent, as seems likely, then this is part of that conflict.

    Absolutely. Our law doesn’t care, though. Legally, what happened was that a member of an allied armed force, on active duty, deliberately shot a US General. It’s much more like what happened at Ft. Hood and the Washington Navy Yard than it is like an enemy soldier killing a US soldier in action.

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  10. Tyrell says:

    The general was killed by a terrorist. Get our people out and let the people there have at each other. I have not heard if the person was apprehended, killed, or escaped.

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  11. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Assassination in the sense that someone was specifically targeting this officer, or General Officers in general.

    So when a private is specifically targeted by a sniper, he’s also assassinated? When we specifically target a Taliban commander and kill him, he’s also been assassinated by us?

    I’m still not seeing how the mere fact that the attacker may have known his target’s name somehow converts it into an assassination.

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  12. Rafer Janders says:

    @DrDaveT:

    No, we’re not — unless you want to stretch the definition of “war” to include any situation in which organized groups of people are shooting at each other.

    No, we are. There’s a war in Afghanistan, ongoing since we invaded 13 years ago. Wars don’t have to be declared between sovereign nations. They can also include rebellions, insurgencies, etc. By that same argument, the US was not at war in Vietnam.

    In which case, the normal legal rules regarding “war” no longer apply.

    The normal legal rules governing war certainly apply. Geneva and other relevant rules of war always apply even in insurgencies, rebellions, civil wars, etc.

    The government of Afghanistan and its ally the US are fighting a multifaceted insurgency led by the Taliban and other groups. That is not a war, any more than the US actions against the Branch Davidians or the Montana militas were “wars”.

    That is a war, that is certainly a war. The Branch Davidians were not a war, but that’s an entirely inapt comparison, as the Davidians never considered themselves an insurgency or to be in any state of war against the US. They were just a bunch of sad confused religious fanatics who were attacked by the US government, not vice versa.

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  13. Rafer Janders says:

    @DrDaveT:

    The government of Afghanistan and its ally the US are fighting a multifaceted insurgency led by the Taliban and other groups. That is not a war,

    According to Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which covers non-international conflicts, an insurgency is still a war and subject to the laws of war, so long as it is a “case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties”.

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  14. Rafer Janders says:

    @DrDaveT:

    The government of Afghanistan and its ally the US are fighting a multifaceted insurgency led by the Taliban and other groups. That is not a war

    To return to this, by that same logic that part of the Vietnam War that involved the government of South Vietnam and its ally the US fighting a multifaceted insurgency led by the Viet Cong was not a war. The government of Afghanistan and its ally the USSR fighting a multifaceted insurgency led by the mujahideen and other groups in the1980s was not a war. The government of Vichy France and its ally Nazi Germany fighting a multifaceted insurgency led by the French Resistance and other groups was not a war. The government of Iraq and its ally the US fighting a multifaceted insurgency from 2003-2011 was not a war. The The government of the US fighting a multifaceted insurgency against the Confederacy was not a war. Etc. etc. etc.

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  15. Mikey says:

    @Rafer Janders: A few quick thoughts, not really fleshed out, just impressions.

    This debate really underscores how the modern battlefield and ways of war have become tremendously complicated in both action and legal senses. Who’s a combatant? What’s a war? Which parties to a war are “legitimate” and which are not?

    I think the perpetrator of today’s incident engaged in perfidy at least, and possibly treason. Are these legitimate military actions from the insurgency’s perspective? I know they think so–the Taliban has issued a statement praising him. But should they be considered legitimate under LOAC?

    It’s all just horrible. What a mess.

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  16. DrDaveT says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    By that same argument, the US was not at war in Vietnam.

    North Vietnam didn’t have a government, with armed forces? I also don’t recall hearing lots of stories about soldiers in South Vietnamese uniforms suddenly shooting American officers.

    …which was my original point. It doesn’t really matter whether or not there is a war going on in Afghanistan — what matters is that a man in the uniform of an ally shot an American major general (and everyone around him). If that man was a legitimate member of the Afghan army, that’s a Fort Hood situation. If that man was posing as a member of the Afghan army in a stolen or counterfeit uniform, it then matters whether he was the agent of a foreign government (in which case it’s a breach of the rules of espionage and an international incident) or whether he was acting on behalf of a non-governmental organization (which seems likely) or whether he was acting on his own, which brings us back to Fort Hood.

    In none of these cases is this act by this individual an act of “war” as recognized in the Geneva Conventions you cite. Those Conventions assume that the relevant entities are States — either States at war, or occupied States, or States in which there is a rebellion against illegitimate rule:

    The situations referred to in the preceding paragraph include armed conflicts in which peoples are fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes in the exercise of their right of self-determination

    Unless you want to declare the government of Afghanistan an occupying force, or a racist regime, I don’t see that this falls under the set of circumstances envisioned in the Conventions, nor that individual terrorists acting on behalf of insurgents are included in its scope.

    I generally agree with you on many topics, and I respect your opinions. But I honestly don’t see where you’re coming from here — I don’t see any way to interpret what this particular individual did as an act of war. It’s either merely a crime, or an act of espionage/sabotage so far outside the Conventions as to be (again) merely a crime.

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