An Afghan National Army soldier gestures outside the gates of a British-run military academy, where an Afghan soldier opened fire on NATO troops inside the premises, on the outskirts of Kabul on Tuesday. (WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images)
The first US general officer to be killed by hostile fire in combat since Sept. 11 died in an apparent insider attack Tuesday at The Marshal Fahim National Defense University in Kabul, Afghanistan, Defense Department officials confirmed.
Media outlets have reported that an Army two-star was killed in the attack, which was carried out by an Afghan man dressed in a military uniform. Up to 15 people were wounded in the shooting, including US troops. A German brigadier general also was reportedly wounded.
Pentagon officials have declined to release the slain general officer’s rank pending next of kin notification. If media reports are correct, the general officer would be the highest-ranking service member killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
One brigadier general has died in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom: Army Brig. Gen. Terrence J. Hildner, who died on Feb. 3, 2012, in Kabul of natural causes. At the time, he was the highest-ranking officer to die while serving overseas.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Army Lt. Gen. Timothy J. Maude was killed in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon.
Ten colonels also have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Five of those deaths were hostile — two died in IED explosions, one from small-arms fire, one from indirect fire and one in a suicide car bomb attack.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, a Pentagon spokesman did not have many details about the attack other than that a general officer had been killed.
“Given that the family notification process is not yet complete, I cannot and will not release any additional information about the general,” said Rear Adm. John Kirby.
Many of those wounded in the attack suffered serious injuries, Kirby said. The assailant, believed to have been a member of Afghan security forces, was killed. The incident will be jointly investigated by NATO and Afghan authorities.
Kirby did not know if the gunman chose his victims at random or if he specifically targeted the general officer and others.
Tuesday’s incident could be the largest “insider attack” of the Afghan war. On April 27, 2011, an Afghan colonel killed eight airmen and a contractor at Kabul International Airport.
Asked why the US military has not been able to eliminate the threat of insider attacks, Kirby replied: “Afghanistan is still a war zone. It’s impossible to completely eliminate that threat, particularly in a place like Afghanistan, but we can work hard to mitigate it and minimize it and [the International Security Assistance Force] has done that.”