WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) — The Afghan soldier who opened fire at an Afghan training base, killing an American two-star general and wounding more than a dozen coalition forces, hid in a bathroom at the compound before his attack, an Afghan official said Wednesday.
The officer, identified by the Pentagon as Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, is the highest ranking American officer to be killed in the Afghanistan war.
Greene was among a group of coalition troops assembled at the base Tuesday for a presentation and it was not clear whether he was specifically targeted.
The Associated Press, citing a Afghan official, said the killer used a NATO-issued machine gun in the attack. The Afghan official spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorized to release the information, AP said.
The soldier, identified as Rafiqullah, was killed in the attack. Authorities said no motive had been determined.
Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said coalition forces were injured in the attack, including eight Americans. A German general officer and two Afghan generals also were injured.
Before Tuesday, the most recent U.S. general officers to die in war was a brigadier general who died in Vietnam in 1972, Pentagon records show.
The attack appears to be the latest incident of a so-called "insider attack," in which Afghan soldiers turn on American and coalition troops.
Rafiqullah, in his early 20s, had joined the Afghan army more than two years ago and came from the country's eastern Paktia province, the Afghan official said. On Tuesday, Rafiqullah had just returned from a patrol around the greater Camp Qargha, west of the Afghan capital, Kabul.
The official said it appeared others on patrol with Rafiqullah had turned in their NATO-issued weapons on arrival, but Rafiqullah kept his and hid in a bathroom. Rafiqullah opened fire when the generals walked into view, the official said.
The insider attacks had increased over the years and emerged as a major threat to the mission by 2012. Attackers that year killed 62 coalition troops. At the time most of the attacks were blamed on personal grievances and there were few cases of Taliban infiltration of influence.
The top commander at the time, Marine Gen. John Allen, instituted a number of changes to reduce the threat, including the use of "guardian angels," requiring troops to operate in pairs or groups and keep an eye out for potential attackers.
Coalition and Afghan officials also enhanced screening of police and army recruits, requiring, for instance, biometric screening and letters vouching for their loyalty by village and tribal elders. Recently, insider attacks have declined dramatically.
"It's impossible to ... completely eliminate that threat," Kirby said. "But you can work hard to mitigate it and minimize it, and ISAF has done that," he said referring to the coalition command.
The shooting took place at the Marshal Fahim National Defense University in Kabul, an officer training facility that was created under coalition supervision.
NATO said Greene's body was being prepared Wednesday to be flown to the U.S. via Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Maj. Gen. Greene's family, and the families of our soldiers who were injured yesterday in the tragic events that took place in Kabul," NATO said. "These soldiers were professionals, committed to the mission."