Top US general 'uninjured' in Kandahar attack that killed Afghan general
KABUL, Afghanistan — The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan survived an attack Thursday in the southern province of Kandahar in which a legendary Afghan police general and the local intelligence chief were killed, and two Americans were wounded, officials said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and indicated Gen. Scott Miller, who commands U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and Kandahar police chief Gen. Abdul Raziq were the intended targets.
A bodyguard for Kandahar’s governor opened fire at a compound where senior officials had met to discuss the security situation in the south, Agha Lalai Dastagiri, Kandahar’s deputy governor told Stars and Stripes.
He said the governor, Zalmai Wesa, was wounded and taken to a hospital. Dastagiri could not immediately confirm whether the governor was still alive. But The Associated Press reported that Wesa died of his injuries at a hospital.
Nevertheless, the loss of so many key Afghan security figures was a major blow to U.S. and Afghan efforts to subdue the Taliban in the volatile south.
In addition to Raziq, the local leader of the country’s main intelligence agency and a journalist were killed, Dastagiri said.
Raziq, who was about 40, was among the best known and most effective police commanders in Afghanistan and had survived numerous assassination attempts — some of which left him wounded.
He rose through the police ranks after the U.S.-led invasion of 2001 that ousted the Taliban, serving for a time as commander of the protection force along Kandahar province’s sensitive southern border with Pakistan. As provincial police commander, he was widely credited with having curbed guerrilla activity around Kandahar City, where the Taliban was born in the 1990s.
Miller assumed command last month from Gen. John Nicholson and was still carrying out initial assessments of the security situation in Afghanistan.
In a Resolute Support tweet, Miller wrote that he "lost a great friend" with the death of Raziq:
"'Today I lost a great friend LTG Raziq. We had served together for many years. Afghanistan lost a patriot, my condolences to the people of Afghanistan. The good he did for Afghanistan and the Afghan people cannotbe undone." - Gen. Scott Miller"
NATO’s Resolute Support mission confirmed that an incident had occurred at Kandahar Palace, on the governor’s compound.
“This was an Afghan-on-Afghan incident,” Col. David Butler, spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan tweeted.
Of the wounded Americans, one was a servicemember and the other a civilian. A wounded contractor from a coalition country was also injured. All three were medically evacuated and stable, according to an email from Resolute Support.
“Gen. Miller is uninjured,” Butler added. “We are being told the area is secure. The attacker is dead.”The Pentagon said the attack would not affect the U.S.’s resolve in Afghanistan.
“If anything, it makes us more resolute,” said Lt. Col. Kone Faulkner, a Pentagon spokesman.
Photos of the gunman have been posted on social media.
Mohammad Yousaf Younasi, a provincial council member, told Stars and Stripes that the man in the photo belonged to the Afghan Border Police, who were providing security to the governor.
Younasi said he saw the assailant a day before the attack, and he was acting suspiciously, avoiding eye contact.
The death of police chief Raziq will likely shake the confidence of Afghanistan’s government and security forces as they prepare for one of their biggest operations in years: protecting more than 5,000 polling stations across the country during Saturday’s parliamentary elections, according to Graeme Smith, a consultant with the International Crisis Group.
“The incident will also make the military balance in southern Afghanistan considerably more fragile, as Gen. Raziq was often at the forefront of government efforts to slow the Taliban’s advances,” Smith said.
The Taliban have vowed to disrupt Saturday’s vote, which it regards as a tool to advance foreign interests.
In 2014, U.S. Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene was killed and about a dozen U.S. soldiers were wounded when an Afghan soldier opened fire inside a building in Kabul. Greene was the highest-ranking general killed in the Afghan War.
J.P. Lawrence and Corey Dickstein contributed to this report.