KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan soldier shot and killed a U.S. soldier and wounded two others Wednesday before being shot dead, the first so-called “insider attack” to target NATO troops since they ended their combat mission at the start of the year.
The shooting happened after Afghan provincial leaders met a U.S. Embassy official at the compound of the Nangarhar provincial governor in the city of Jalalabad. All U.S. Embassy staff were accounted for and safe, the diplomatic mission said.
“Right after the U.S. official had left, suddenly an Afghan army soldier opened fire on the U.S. soldiers who were present in the compound,” said Afghan Gen. Fazel Ahmad Sherzad, the police chief for eastern Nangarhar province
The American troops returned fire, killing the Afghan soldier, whom Sherzad identified as Abdul Azim of Laghman province.
The motive for his attack was not immediately known and no group claimed responsibility for the assault. In past attacks, Taliban insurgents have been known to wear Afghan police or military uniforms to stage attacks on the international troops.
Others have opened fire apparently on the own accord, like an Afghan soldier who last year killed Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene, the highest-ranked U.S. officer to be slain in combat since 1970 in the Vietnam War.
The attack was the second fatality suffered by NATO since the beginning of the year. The last incident in which an American soldier was killed in Afghanistan was on Dec. 13, when a roadside bombing killed two U.S. troops in Parwan province. Also, an Afghan soldier killed three American contractors Jan. 29 in another apparent insider attack.
NATO confirmed that one of its soldiers died in Wednesday’s attack, without providing the nationality of the slain soldier. A Washington official confirmed the soldier was American.
The U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, P. Michael McKinley, was not present at the time of the incident, Sherzad said. Neither Sherzad nor the U.S. Embassy identified the senior American diplomat at the meeting.
Information was sketchy and an eyewitness initially told The Associated Press that four U.S. troops had been wounded in the attack – not three as Sherzad said – and were being treated at a clinic on the American base in Jalalabad.
Noman Atefi, the spokesman for the Afghan National Army’s eastern corps command, said one Afghan soldier had been killed and two others wounded in the shootout. It was not immediately clear if the fatality he was referring to was the attacker.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, when asked about the shooting, said it “underscores that Afghanistan continues to be a dangerous place.”
“We’re going to continue to work closely with President (Ashraf) Ghani, other members of the Afghan government and our international partners to support the Afghan government of national unity as it pursues a future of greater peace, prosperity and, finally, an end to this conflict,” Earnest said.
At the Pentagon, spokesman Col. Steve Warren said an investigation into the shooting was underway and indications suggested it was an insider attacker.
There were at least four insider attacks in Afghanistan in 2014. The worst was on Aug. 5, when the Afghan soldier shot and killed Greene and wounded 18.