One US military member was killed Saturday and another was apparently injured by a member of the Afghan military. The insider attack – the fifth in the last four months – took place in the Afghan capital Kabul, where the US-led military coalition is located.
The assailant was reportedly a member of Afghanistan's national defense and security forces, and was quickly killed by other Afghan forces, according to a statement released by the coalition. The two service members were evacuated to nearby Bagram Airport, where the wounded soldier is now in a stable condition.
None of the service members have been identified, and details of the attack still need to be published. So it's not immediately clear if the insider attack involved a Taliban supporter, a personal argument, or some other misunderstanding.
The obvious shooting occurred when Afghan forces, supported by NATO advisers and the Air Force, continued to fight the Taliban and other armed insurgents despite 17 years of uninterrupted war. Part of the onslaught was a disturbing trend towards insider attacks, which in the past led to a strong mistrust between Afghan and NATO forces, including US troops.
US Army Maj. Bariki Mallya, a coalition spokesman, told TIME that it is "standard practice" for US forces to "re-evaluate and adjust our military protection efforts each time an insider attack occurs." Workflows, however, are constantly assessing how they can be performed more safely. "
The Pentagon has about 15,000 soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, most of which train and advise Afghan forces and rarely engage in direct combat. With fewer American targets on the battlefield, the Taliban have found ways to infiltrate various bases occupied by NATO troops through insider attacks known as "Green-on-Blue" attacks within the military.
Less than two weeks ago, on October 21, Czechoslovak sergeant Tomáš Procházka, 42, was killed when an attacker opened fire on NATO forces in the western province of Herat.
Only four days later, the Taliban took responsibility for an attack that injured US Brigadier General Jeffrey Smiley, who oversees NATO's military advisory mission in southern Afghanistan. The shooting claimed the lives of General Abdul Raziq, one of Afghanistan's most powerful security officials, and his secret service chief after a meeting in Kandahar province. The Commander in Chief of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, US General Secretary Scott Miller, was also present, but was able to escape unhurt.
US Army Sergeant Timothy Bolyard, 42, was shot dead on September 3 by an Afghan policeman following a meeting in Camp Maiwand, an installation in the eastern province of Logar. The Pentagon released a service biography with a 24-year career that included seven appearances and six Bronze Star medals.
An Afghan attacker killed 20-year-old US corporal Joseph Maciel in the Tarin Kowt district of Uruzgan province on 7 July. Two more soldiers were wounded in the attack. Maciel and the other forces were all members of the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, a specialized unit of army advisers deployed to train, advise and assist the Afghan forces.
The series of insider attacks comes from the latest report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a US government guardian, according to which the Afghan government controlled or influenced only 55.5% of the 407 districts. This is the lowest level since SIGAR started tracking numbers in 2015.
The quarterly report also states that from July 1 to September 30, Afghanistan's national defense and security forces have made "minimal or no progress in pressure on the Taliban." The latest quarterly period included the Taliban's attack on the city of Ghazni in August civilians were killed in a multi-day siege that was the subject of a local TIME story.
From 2008 to the end of 2017, there were 96 insider attacks in Afghanistan, killing at least 152 foreign soldiers and injuring 200, according to the Long War Journal. In five attacks in 2018, three Americans and a coalition soldier were killed.
The numbers, while grim, are still far from the 44 insider attacks in 2012, when they accounted for 15% of the death toll. At that time, US military commanders ordered the units to designate "guardian angels" to ensure the safety of Afghans working soldiers.
The Pentagon withheld the names of the Americans who had been killed and wounded on Saturday until the next of kin were informed. The attack marks the eighth US service member killed in Afghanistan this year. Afghanistan has seen more than 2,200 US servicemen die since 2001.