(CNSNews.com) – An “insider attack” in Afghanistan Tuesday that cost the life of the most senior American military officer to be killed in either the Afghanistan or Iraq wars came shortly after Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar gave fresh encouragement to Afghan military personnel members “who launch attacks on the enemy and then join the ranks of jihad.”
The number of insider attacks has dropped significantly since 2012, but the death of the senior officer has cast a spotlight again onto the danger, just five months before most coalition forces withdraw – leaving behind a residual force whose main training role will by its nature entail close cooperation between U.S. and Afghan personnel.
The general, named by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno as Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene, was shot dead by an Afghan soldier at a military academy near Kabul. A German brigadier-general and two Afghan generals were reported to be among another 15 personnel injured in the shooting.
“We remain committed to our mission in Afghanistan and will continue to work with our Afghan partners to ensure the safety and security of all coalition soldiers and civilians,” Odierno said in a brief statement.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued a statement praising the shooter – who was shot dead after opening fire at close range – but not claiming direct Taliban responsibility for the attack.
A separate Taliban statement claimed that four “invaders” were killed in the incident, describing them as three U.S. soldiers and “an Italian general.”
“The foreigners were there for a military assessment of the trainees and were trying to evaluate the effectiveness of their puppets’ military training when the attack happened,” it said.
According to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, one ISAF service member was killed in the shooting at the Marshal Fahim National Defense University. Pentagon spokesman Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby also reported the one fatality, and said that “some Americans” were among those wounded.
In an end-of-Ramadan Eid message two weeks ago, Omar exhorted Afghan soldiers and policemen to “come and wage jihad alongside with your own people and together with the mujahedeen of the Islamic Emirate against the common enemy in order to gain the bliss of the two worlds” (i.e. the present world, and the one to come.)
“As per the policy of the Islamic Emirate, mujahedeen should have a conduct of sympathy with those who leave ranks of the enemy,” he continued. “Give them welcome. Appreciate and reward heroism of the committed Afghans who launch attacks on the enemy and then join the ranks of jihad.”
Omar first publicly raised the issue of insider – also known as “green-on-blue” – attacks in an Eid message two years ago.
As reported at the time by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Long War Journal, Omar in that message said the Taliban had “cleverly infiltrated in the ranks of the enemy according to the plan given to them last year.”
“Many conscious Afghans in the rank and files of the enemy have shown willingness to help the mujahedeen in a shrewd and astute manner after having come around to know the reality,” Omar said. “As a result, the foreign invaders and their allies in their military centers and bases do come under crushing blows of these heroic soldiers.”
According to Long War Journal data, 2012 accounted for the highest number of insider attacks and fatalities, with 61 coalition personnel – 15 percent of all coalition deaths for that year – killed in 44 incidents.
The attacks have declined since then: Last year 14 personnel were killed in 13 insider attacks (9.9 percent of the total fatalities) and three attacks so far this year have cost the lives of three coalition personnel (5.3 percent of total fatalities).
“The decline in attacks is due to several factors, including the continuing drawdown of Coalition personnel, reduced partnering with Afghan forces, and the adoption of heightened security measures in interactions between Coalition and Afghan forces,” Bill Roggio and Lisa Lundquist wrote in Long War Journal on Tuesday.
In his recent Eid message, Omar characterized the deal that freed five senior Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay last spring in exchange for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl as a “spectacular achievement,” and one which he suggested underlined growing acceptance of the Taliban as a political force.
“Due to the efforts of the [Taliban’s] Political Office [in Qatar] which performs its task under our instructions, Islamic Emirate has gained a political facade at world’s and internal levels,” he said. “Many entities that used to oppose us now have come around to accept the Islamic Emirate as a reality. Exchange of the detainees with America as a result of the efforts of the representatives of the Political Office of the Islamic Emirate is a spectacular achievement.”
Bergdahl had been missing since being seized by the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network in 2009. Qatar brokered the controversial deal for his release, accepted the freed Taliban leaders, and undertook to monitor their activities for one year.