Massoud Hossaini / AP

US general killed in Afghan training center attack

Maj. Gen. Harold Greene is believed to be the highest-ranking American officer killed in combat since 1970

An American major general was killed on Tuesday in one of the bloodiest insider attacks of the Afghanistan war when a gunman, dressed as an Afghan soldier, turned on allied troops, wounding about 15 U.S. and coalition forces, including a German general and two Afghan generals.

The slain general, identified by a U.S. official as Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, is believed to be the highest-ranking American officer killed in combat since 1970. The attack took place at the Marshal Fahim National Defense University, a training center in Kabul. 

Greene was the deputy commanding general of the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan. An engineer by training, Greene was involved in preparing Afghan forces for the time when U.S.-coalition troops leave at the end of this year.

NATO said it was investigating the incident, which underscored the tensions that persist as the U.S. combat role winds down.

In a statement, outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack, calling it "an act by the enemies who don’t want to see Afghanistan have strong institutions."

Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for Afghanistan's Defense Ministry, said a "terrorist in an army uniform" opened fire on both local and international troops. Azimi and U.S. officials said the shooter was killed.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid praised in a statement the "Afghan soldier" who carried out the attack. He did not claim the Taliban carried out the attack, although in the past the Taliban have encouraged such actions.

It also wasn't the only assault by an Afghan ally on coalition forces on Tuesday. 

In eastern Paktia province, an Afghan police guard exchanged fire with NATO troops near the governor's office, provincial police said. The guard was killed in the gunfight. It wasn't clear if the two incidents were linked, and police said they were investigating.

The incidents come as so-called insider attacks — incidents in which Afghan security forces turn on their NATO partners — largely dropped last year. In 2013 there were 16 deaths in 10 attacks. In 2012 there were 60 coalition troops killed in 40 attacks, The Associated Press reported. 

Such insider attacks are sometimes claimed by the Taliban insurgency as proof of their infiltration. Others are attributed to personal disputes or resentment by Afghans who have soured on the continued international presence in their country more than a dozen years after the fall of the Taliban’s ultraconservative Islamic regime.

Foreign aid workers, contractors and other civilians in Afghanistan are increasingly becoming targets of violence as the U.S.-led military coalition continues a withdrawal to be completed by the end of the year.

NATO strikes kills civilians

Meanwhile, a NATO helicopter strike targeting missile-launching Taliban militants killed four civilians in Herat province in western Afghanistan, an Afghan official said on Tuesday. In a statement NATO said it was aware of the attack and was investigating, without elaborating.

The deaths came as civilian casualties from NATO attacks remain a contentious issue across the country. Almost 200 people demonstrated against NATO in Herat on Tuesday, carrying the bodies of the dead civilians into the provincial capital and demanding an investigation.

The strike happened on Monday night in Herat’s Shindan district, said Raouf Ahmadi, a spokesman for the provincial chief of police. He said Taliban militants launched a missile at an airport nearby, drawing the NATO helicopter’s fire. He said the NATO attack killed two men, one woman and a child.

In its statement, NATO said it "takes all allegations of civilian casualties seriously and is assessing the facts surrounding this incident."

Civilians increasingly find themselves under fire as the 2001 U.S.-led war draws to a close, as Afghan forces take the lead in operations targeting the Taliban. The United Nations reported in July that the civilian death toll in the war in Afghanistan rose 17 percent for the first half of this year compared with the same period in 2013, with 1,564 civilians were killed from January through June; 1,342 civilians were killed in the first six months of 2013.

Insurgents were responsible for 74 percent of the casualties, the U.N. said, with pro-government forces responsible for 9 percent, government forces 8 percent and foreign troops 1 percent. The rest could not be attributed to any group. Karzai has repeatedly clashed with NATO over civilian casualties.

Afghan security forces also increasingly find themselves under attack as the planned foreign troop withdrawal draws near. On Tuesday a police car struck a roadside bomb in the eastern province of Nouristan, killing three officers, said the provincial police chief, Abdul Baqi Nouristani.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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