An Afghan pilot opened fire on NATO soldiers at an airbase in Kabul today, killing eight US troops and an American contractor. The attack is the latest setback for Afghan security forces.
The International Security Assistance Force confirmed the attack, but did not release the names or nationalities of those killed.
“At 10:25 a.m. local Kabul time this morning authorities received notification of small arms fire at North Kabul International Airport,” ISAF stated in a press release. “A quick reaction force responded to the incident. Eight International Security Assistance Force troops and a contractor were killed in the incident.” Pajhwok Afghan News claimed that the attack took place during a meeting at a “command centre.” The eight troops and the contractor were later identified as Americans.
The US soldiers and the contractor likely were members of NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan, which is responsible for training the Afghan National Security Assistance Force. NATO Air Training Command Afghanistan is based out of North Kabul International.
The motive for the attack is unclear. Both Pajhwok Afghan News and Al Jazeera reported that an Afghan pilot opened fire on the ISAF troops after a heated dispute. Al Jazeera said the pilot was a seasoned colonel, while one source told Pajhwok Afghan News that the colonel was retired.
“For the past 20 years, he has been a military pilot,” General Mohammad Zahir Azimi, an Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman told Al Jazeera. “An argument happened between him and the foreigners and we have to investigate that.”
The Taliban, in a statement released on their propaganda website, Voice of Jihad, claimed credit for the attack, and said that “a Mujahid uninformed [sic] as a soldier” struck at a recruiting center as a meeting was underway. The Taliban have not provided the name of the attacker, as they have done on previous occasions when they claim suicide attacks. In the past, the Taliban have attempted to claim credit for other attacks by Afghan soldiers and policemen, although not all of these claims could be substantiated.
Afghan forces plagued by missteps, attacks
Today’s attack is the latest in a series of recent setbacks for Afghan security, including Taliban infiltration attacks, attacks on ISAF forces by Afghan soldiers, and even a massive jailbreak in Kandahar that resulted in the escape of more than 450 Taliban commanders and fighters. The Taliban have shown the ability to penetrate high-security facilities; three attacks in the past two weeks have taken place at such facilities.
On April 18, a Taliban suicide bomber dressed as a soldier penetrated security at the Afghan Ministry of Defense in Kabul, killing two Afghan soldiers and wounding several aides to top Afghan officials in a gunfight before he was able to detonate his vest. The suicide bomber managed to reach the third floor of the ministry and wounded several top aides.
On April 16, a suicide bomber wearing a police uniform detonated his vest at a combined Afghan and ISAF training base in the Qarghayi district in the eastern Afghan province of Laghman. ISAF later confirmed that the suicide bomber was indeed an Afghan soldier.
On April 15, a Taliban suicide bomber from the Mullah Dadullah Mahaz, or Mullah Dadullah Front, assassinated the chief of police for Kandahar province and killed two of his bodyguards. The suicide bomber was dressed as a policeman and detonated after hugging the police chief in his office.
These attacks have been major setbacks for the nascent Afghan security forces, which have struggled to develop into a professional fighting force. The Taliban attacks and a string of recent attacks by Afghan security forces on ISAF personnel serve to sow distrust among ISAF troops assigned to work closely with their Afghan counterparts.
ISAF and NATO have placed great emphasis on the training of Afghan forces, in preparation for drawing down NATO forces in the coming years. The Afghan National Security Forces are expected to take control of security by 2014. The security forces are currently undergoing rapid expansion, which is leaving room for Taliban infiltration as well as the recruitment of unqualified personnel.
- Update 2 to small arms fire at North KAIA, ISAF press release
- 6 ISAF troops shot dead by Afghan pilot, Pajhwok Afghan News
- Foreign troops killed in Afghan shootout, Al Jazeera
- Nine killed in Kabul attack were Americans: Pentagon, Reuters
- Mujahideen attack Air Corps kills 9 NATO, 5 local cowardly soldiers in Kabul city, Voice of Jihad
- More than 450 Taliban leaders, fighters escape from Kandahar jail, The Long War Journal
- Taliban suicide bomber penetrates security at Ministry of Defense in Kabul, The Long War Journal
- Taliban suicide bomber kills 5 ISAF, 4 Afghan troops in east, The Long War Journal
- Suicide bomber assassinates Kandahar police chief, The Long War Journal
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