By MATTHEW ROSENBERG and HARIS KAKAR
KABUL, Afghanistan — A U.S. army major general was killed Tuesday by an Afghan soldier, shot at close range at a military training academy on the outskirts of Kabul, an official of the U.S.-led coalition and Afghan media reported Tuesday. The officer was the highest-ranking member of the U.S. military to die in hostilities in the Afghanistan war.
The coalition official, 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 U.S.-led coalition and Afghan soldiers, including a senior Afghan commander were also shot. Their conditions were not known.
Other details of the shooting were sketchy, and the coalition official would only confirm that “an incident” had taken place at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy.
Tensions at the camp 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 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 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.
Sher Alam, an Afghan soldier guarding the entrance to the academy, located at Camp Qargha, said senior Afghan and coalition officers had been meeting there Tuesday, and that reports from inside the camp indicated that a number of the foreign officers were shot in the attack. He said soon after the shooting, coalition helicopters landed inside the academy to evacuate the victims.
Tuesday’s shooting was the first so-called insider attack in Afghanistan in months. Such attacks, in which Afghan troops open fire on unsuspecting coalition forces, at one point posed a serious challenge to the war effort, sowing distrust and threatening to upend the U.S.-led training mission that is vital to the long-term strategy for keeping the Taliban at bay.
Though the number of attacks has dropped sharply since 2012, when dozens occurred, they remain a persistent threat for coalition troops serving alongside Afghan forces.
Afghan and U.S. commanders have said that they believe most of the insider attacks that have taken place were the work of ordinary soldiers who had grown alienated and angry over the continued presence of foreign troops here, and not carried out by Taliban fighters planted in Afghan units.
The Taliban, which often takes credit for insider attacks, had no immediate comment Tuesday. Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the insurgents, said he was still trying to collect information about the incident.
But, he added, the Taliban had many people inside the camp, and that one of their loyalists could have been responsible for the attack.