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US major general killed in Afghan insider attack

In this Army file photo from Nov. 19, 2010, then-Natick Soldier Systems Center commander Brig. Gen. Harold Greene, center, talks to Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts during a visit to the facility.

KABUL — A gunman thought to be an Afghan soldier opened fire Tuesday on foreign troops at an officers’ training school, killing an American two-star Army general, military officials said.

In a condolence statement late Tuesday, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno identified him as Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, deputy commanding general of the Combined Security Transition Command, charged with preparing Afghan forces for the departure of U.S. coalition-led combat troops by the end of the year.

Greene was the highest-ranking U.S. officer killed in an attack since Army Lt. Gen. Timothy J. Maude died in the 9/11 strike at the Pentagon.

TIMELINE | The history of insider attacks in Afghanistan

More than a dozen other coalition troops, including a German general, were also wounded in the attack, Afghan and international officials said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene's family, and the families of our soldiers who were injured today in the tragic events that took place in Afghanistan,” Odierno said in written statement. “These soldiers were professionals, committed to the mission. It is their service and sacrifice that define us as an Army.”

Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said the shooter was thought to be an Afghan soldier who launched his attack during a routine site visit at the Marshal Fahim National Defense University. But he said he could not provide an account of the incident or identify the shooter, who was killed.

A U.S. defense official said earlier that about a dozen U.S. servicemembers were wounded.

Kirby said ISAF and Afghan officials would jointly conduct the investigation.

The German military said in a news release that at least 15 ISAF members were wounded. It said the German brigadier general’s injuries were not life-threatening.

According to the German release, the attack occurred during a “key leader engagement.”

Maj. Gen. Zahir Azimi, spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, said a man in an Afghan army uniform opened fire. He said the shooter was killed.

In a statement, the Taliban called the attacker a “patriot” but did not confirm or deny that the insurgent group played any role.

Greene was commissioned in 1980 as an engineer officer and held a number of research and development and acquisitions-related postings.

Prior to his assignment in Afghanistan, he served as deputy for acquisitions and system management for the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology. Before that, he was the deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command and commanded the Soldier Systems Center at Natick, Mass., according to an Army biography.

The national defense university includes the British-run Afghan National Army Officers’ Academy. It also will include a higher military school, along with schools for noncommissioned officers and sergeants major, as well as a defense language center.

The officers’ academy, which opened last fall, is a modern training facility tasked with educating Afghanistan’s new, professional military leadership. British instructors will continue overseeing the school after all foreign combat troops leave at the end of this year.

Insider attacks such as Tuesday’s spiked in 2012, prompting ISAF to enact stricter security measures to protect its troops from the Afghans they were working with.

In recent months, the number of insider attacks has dropped significantly as protective measures were continued and fewer international troops worked directly with Afghan forces.

In June, two coalition servicemembers were wounded in a suspected insider attack at a police station. In February, two U.S. Special Forces soldiers were killed and four others were wounded when a suspected member of the Afghan security forces opened fire on them. And in April, an Associated Press journalist was killed and another seriously wounded when a police commander opened fire on them inside a heavily guarded Afghan security forces base in eastern Afghanistan.

The safety of international advisers will continue to be an issue if Afghanistan agrees to a U.S. plan that would keep thousands of American troops in the country until the end of 2016.

But Kirby said the attack was unlikely to change the strategy for the final months of the NATO combat mission — due to conclude at the end of the year — or for the post-2014 advisory and training mission.

“I don’t see any impact to the current plans to draw down our forces in Afghanistan or to further support the Resolute Support mission next year,” he said.

In a statement, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan expressed condolences.

“The attack on these servicemen is a tragedy,” Jan Kubis, the head of UNAMA said.

Zubair Babakarkhail, Marcus Kloeckner and Stars and Stripes reporters Chris Carroll, Jon Harper and Slobodan Lekic contributed to this report.

smith.josh@stripes.com
Twitter: @joshjonsmith
 

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