US General Killed in Afghan Insider Attack

Originally published on August 8, 2014, at

During a routine inspection at the Marshal Fahim National Defense University in Kabul, a lone gunman killed an American two-star general and wounded at least 15 other coalition troops. Hiding in the bathroom with his NATO-issued assault rifle, Mohammad Rafiqullah waited until the delegation came into sight before indiscriminately firing through a window.

Deputy commanding general of the Combined Security Transition Command—Afghanistan (CSTC-A), Maj. Gen. Harold Greene was responsible for advising and training the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). While routinely visiting the Afghanistan National Military Academy, Greene had been shot three times in the back and one to the back of the head. A German one-star general named Brig. Gen. Michael Bartscher and Gen. Ghulam Sakhi, the Afghan officer running the university, were among the wounded in the attack.

Assigned to the military police, 27-year-old Mohammad Rafiqullah had joined the academy over two years ago. After returning from a patrol on Tuesday, Rafiqullah went to the bathroom instead of returning his NATO-issued assault rifle. With no known motivation, Rafiqullah hid inside the bathroom until the coalition forces came into view. He emptied two clips into the delegation before International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops returned fire, shooting him twice in the face.

On the same day, a gunfight between an Afghan police guard and NATO troops erupted near the governor’s office in southern Paktia. The Afghan guard was killed in the shootout.

A few hours later, an Afghan police officer killed seven cops at a checkpoint in Uruzgan, stole their weapons, and fled in a police vehicle. A local doctor anonymously reported the police officer had drugged his colleagues’ food before shooting them. Afghan officials denied their officers had been drugged without providing any additional proof.

In April, an Afghan police officer fired his AK-47 at two Associated Press journalists. Photographer Anja Niedringhaus died instantly while AP reporter Kathy Gannon had been wounded twice, but survived the attack. After surrendering to his fellow officers, the gunman claimed he was avenging the deaths of his family members who died in a NATO bombing in Parwan. In a separate shooting that month, another Afghan police officer opened fire killing three Americans working at a hospital in Kabul.

In February 2012, an Afghan police officer gunned down a U.S. colonel and major in Kabul. On April 27, 2011, an Afghan colonel opened fire killing eight U.S. airmen and a contractor at the Kabul International Airport. The Taliban took credit for both insider attacks claiming they had used undercover agents to infiltrate coalition forces.

These insider killings are nothing new. In Afghanistan during the 1980’s, Soviet soldiers experienced an increase of insider attacks. U.S. troops have endured similar insider killings during the wars in Iraq and Vietnam.

According to an April 2014 Defense Department report entitled Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan, insider attacks against ISAF forces decreased from 48 attacks in 2012 to 15 attacks in 2013. The report admits that due to ISAF’s improvement in reducing insider killings, insurgents have shifted focus increasing insider attacks against the ANSF.

Although the Taliban have publicly acknowledged this recent attack, they have not claimed responsibility for Maj. Gen. Greene’s death. Investigators are attempting to determine why Rafiqullah turned his weapon against coalition forces, but for now his motives remain unknown.

Maj. Gen. Greene is the highest-ranking military officer killed since Lt. Gen. Timothy J. Maude died in the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Of the ten U.S. colonels that have died in Afghanistan and Iraq, five of those deaths were hostile. Two colonels died in IED explosions, one from a suicide car bomb, another from small-arms fire, and one from indirect fire.

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