A United States soldier has been killed, and two others are wounded, following a suspected ‘insider attack’ in Afghanistan.
One American soldier was killed and at least two were wounded by an Afghan in military uniform when a firefight erupted after a U.S. Embassy delegation’s visit in eastern Afghanistan, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.
American soldiers subsequently killed the assailant in a shootout. One Afghan soldier was killed and two were wounded in the attack, officials said.
U.S. Army Maj. Chris Belcher, a spokesman for NATO’s U.S.-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, said one service member died in the incident but did not reveal the nationality, in accordance with military guidelines. A senior Afghan military official in Jalalabad, where the attack took place, said one American soldier was killed and two were wounded, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.
It was not immediately clear whether the assailant was an Afghan army soldier or an insurgent disguised as one. Afghan police officials in Jalalabad said the attacker was a soldier, while Afghan military officials said they were not certain and that an investigation was underway.
If it was a so-called “insider attack” perpetrated by an Afghan soldier, it would mark the second instance this year of such an assault. In late January, an Afghan soldier killed three American contractors at a military base attached to Kabul’s international airport, triggering a shootout in which the attacker was killed. A fourth American contractor was wounded in the attack.
Wednesday’s shooting unfolded shortly after a senior U.S. official held a meeting in Jalalabad with the provincial governor, said U.S Embassy spokeswoman Monica Cummings. Also present at what Afghan officials described as a security meeting were senior NATO officials, American soldiers protecting the entourage and governors from two neighboring provinces.
“We are aware that there was an exchange of gunfire involving Resolute Support service members near the provincial governor’s compound in Jalalabad,” said Cummings in a statement. “All chief of mission personnel of the visiting party are accounted for.”
According to Afghan officials, Ambassador Michael McKinley was not present at the meeting. The U.S. Embassy did not provide further details on which senior U.S. official was meeting with the governor. But Afghan officials in Jalalabad said it was Donald Yamamoto, who also holds ambassadorial rank.
Hazrat Hussain Mashreqiwal, chief police spokesman for Nangahar province, of which Jalalabad is the capital, said the attack happened after the delegation of U.S. and Afghan officials left the governor’s compound.
“One Afghan National Army soldier, who was on the top of a military truck with a machine gun, was guarding the governor compound along with the American soldiers,” said Mashreqiwal. “He opened fired on the American soldiers. The attacker was then killed in return fire.”
He added that one Afghan soldier was arrested and is being investigated for possible involvement in the attack.
Insider attacks have long plagued the relationship between Afghan forces and their U.S. and international allies, breaking down trust and reducing interaction. The assaults by rogue Afghan soldiers or police rose in the last years of the NATO combat mission, which formally ended in December. Assaults reached record levels in 2012, when there were 37 such attacks that killed 51 people, including 32 U.S. troops, according to the Pentagon.