The Cable

Americans Killed by Afghan Army Gunman in Kabul

The attack is the first of its kind in over a year, but comes amid a Taliban offensive.

US soldiers stand guard at the scene of a suicide car bomb attack on a Turkish diplomatic vehicle in front of the Iranian embassy in Kabul on February 26, 2015. A Taliban suicide attack targeting a Turkish diplomatic vehicle killed two people in Kabul, highlighting the fragile security situation as the Afghan government presses for peace talks with the militants.The blast came shortly after 8:00 am (0330 GMT), not far from the Iranian embassy. Police said the dead included a Turkish national and an Afghan passer-by.Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai gave details of the attack and death toll, saying the bomber was driving a Toyota Corolla when he targeted the Turkish vehicle. AFP PHOTO / Wakil KOHSAR        (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
US soldiers stand guard at the scene of a suicide car bomb attack on a Turkish diplomatic vehicle in front of the Iranian embassy in Kabul on February 26, 2015. A Taliban suicide attack targeting a Turkish diplomatic vehicle killed two people in Kabul, highlighting the fragile security situation as the Afghan government presses for peace talks with the militants.The blast came shortly after 8:00 am (0330 GMT), not far from the Iranian embassy. Police said the dead included a Turkish national and an Afghan passer-by.Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai gave details of the attack and death toll, saying the bomber was driving a Toyota Corolla when he targeted the Turkish vehicle. AFP PHOTO / Wakil KOHSAR (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Two Americans were killed and three wounded in an attack by an Afghan soldier at a military base near Kabul on Wednesday, in what appears to be the first such attack since April 2015, when an Afghan soldier killed an American soldier and wounded two more at the governor’s compound in Jalalabad, Nangarhar.

If the shooting is confirmed to be an attack by an Afghan soldier on coalition personnel — also known as “green-on-blue” attack, after the color coding assigned different forces – it would recall a particularly dark period in the 15-year U.S. and NATO effort there where such attacks were commonplace. It would also spark fears that a situation military advisors had thought was a relic of years past may return.

The attack took place at an ammunition supply point next to an Afghan base in Kabul after U.S. forces arrived for an inspection, Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland told Foreign Policy on Wednesday. The incident is under investigation, “but we think one gunman (who was killed)” was involved in the attack, Cleveland said in an email.

Among the dead were one U.S. service member and one civilian, while another service member and two other U.S. civilians were wounded but are “currently stable,” according to a statement from the U.S. military command in Kabul.

Gen. John Nicholson, commander of the 7,000 U.S. and 5,000 NATO troops in the country, said that despite the attack, the coalition “will continue to pursue our Train, Advise, and Assist mission to help our partners create a better Afghanistan.”

The Long War Journal has kept an ongoing tally of green-on-blue attacks, which peaked in 2012 when 44 attacks were responsible for the deaths of 61 members of the U.S.-led coalition.

The motives for the attacks have varied widely, from assaults carried out by Taliban sympathizers, to soldiers with relatively simple grievances over issues like pay, leave, or disciplinary actions. Other deadly attacks on American and NATO forces have been over perceived failures of American forces to punish Afghan officers guilty of child rape and abuse.

In one case in particular, three unarmed Marines were killed by an underage boy at an outpost in Helmand province in 2012 after an Afghan police officer who had a history of pedophilia was allowed back on the base by U.S. forces.

In August 2014, an attack by an Afghan soldier at a training base in Kabul killed Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, the highest-ranked American officer killed in combat since 1970 in the Vietnam War.

 

Photo Credit: WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images

Paul McLeary is Foreign Policy’s senior reporter covering the U.S. Defense Department and national security issues. @paulmcleary

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