- By Paul McLearyPaul McLeary is Foreign Policy’s senior reporter covering the U.S. Defense Department and national security issues. He joined the Washington office in 2015 after working for Defense News, where he was also on the Pentagon beat, and covered stories relating to Pentagon spending and the defense industry. While there, and in a previous incarnation as a New York-based reporter, Paul embedded with U.S. Army and Marine Corps units in Iraq and Afghanistan to cover ground combat operations, where he got inside a secretive drone program being run out of Bagram air base. He has also traveled with the U.S. Navy, covered NATO meetings in Europe with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and stalked major international arms shows in Paris and London.
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