An Insider Attack In Afghanistan

In Kabul yesterday, two-star Major General Harold Greene was shot to death, becoming the highest ranking American military officer killed in a war zone since 1970:

The inside attack, which took place at Afghanistan’s National Defense University in Kabul, also injured more than a dozen members of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), defense officials said. A one-star German was wounded, the Bundeswehr German armed forces said. The shooter, allegedly a member of the Afghan military, was killed in the course of the attack, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby confirmed Tuesday.

So-called “green-on-blue,” or insider attacks, when insurgents either disguised as or within the Afghan security forces turn their weapons on NATO-led international forces in Afghanistan, are common. But a number of factors, including measures implemented by ISAF, have diminished their prevalence in the last two years. The last confirmed green-on-blue incident occurred in February in Afghanistan’s Kapisa province, although, a June 23 attack involving an Afghan police officer and two injured ISAF soldiers is being investigated.

Eli Lake fingers the Taliban:

The Taliban have spent the last seven years trying to embed moles inside Afghanistan’s army and security services. At a press briefing Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Adm. John Kirby was careful not to assign blame for the attack, describing the assailant only as an Afghan soldier. But the U.S. military has spoken publicly for years about its efforts to root out the Taliban infiltrators inside the military President Obama hopes will keep Afghanistan from becoming an al Qaeda haven. One congressional staff member told The Daily Beast, “Our view is: This is Taliban until proven otherwise.”

Even if the Taliban had nothing to do with Tuesday’s attack—and they might not have—the threat from the group and other Islamic extremists in Afghanistan is rising, current and former U.S. intelligence and military officials tell The Daily Beast. The new danger in Afghanistan reflects an optimism from the Taliban, al Qaeda, and the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network that Obama will remove U.S. forces from the country by the end of his presidency, leaving them an opportunity to re-establish havens within Afghanistan.

But Paul Rogers suggests that a spike in Taliban violence could cause the administration to reconsider the drawdown:

The Taliban may have increased their levels of action against Afghan forces, but they are unlikely to push this too far during the summer months – what is euphemistically called the “fighting season”. If they do, then the United States might decide to keep larger forces in the country in order to support the Afghan government beyond the end of this year.

The current intention is to keep those 10,000 or so troops in Afghanistan, partly to handle training missions but also to support the use of drones and maintain Special Forces for searching out groups that might link to al-Qaida elements in Afghanistan and north-west Pakistan. If the Taliban get so strong that they are threatening the very survival of the Kabul government, then the Pentagon will argue for keeping far more troops in the country.