Centcom: No Clear Links to Taliban in Killing of Army Two-Star

Military blames 'self-radicalized' Afghan cop for attack that killed general, wounded 18

Secretary of the Army John McHugh, left, and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, third from left, watch an Army carry team transfers the remains of Army Maj. Gen. Harold Greene at Dover Air Force Base, Del., Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014
Secretary of the Army John McHugh, left, and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, third from left, watch an Army carry team transfers the remains of Army Maj. Gen. Harold Greene at Dover Air Force Base, Del., Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014 / AP
• December 4, 2014 5:55 pm


An investigation into the Afghan national police officer who shot and killed a U.S. Army general in Kabul last August found "no clear evidence" the shooter was part of the Taliban or a terrorist group, according to a U.S. Central Command report.

The report into the shooting, which killed Maj. Gen. Harold Greene and wounded 18 others during a visit to the Afghan National Defense University, stated that the shooter, Rafiqullah Tashkera was a "self-radicalized" jihadist.

Rafiqullah opened fired on a group of soldiers that had gathered for a briefing at the university on Aug. 5. Greene, the deputy commanding general of the Combined Security Transition Team—Afghanistan, was the highest ranking officer killed in an overseas conflict since the Vietnam War.

The attack highlighted a tactic used by jihadists in Afghanistan called insider attacks. The Taliban and other jihadists have urged those working inside the Afghan army and government to infiltrate these organizations, gain trust and then conduct shooting or bombing attacks.

According to the Pentagon, seven insider attacks were carried out so far this year that resulted in four deaths, including Greene, and 23 wounded. A total of 64 coalition troops were killed in 2012 from insider attacks, along with 102 wounded in 48 incidents. By last year, the number had fallen to 17 killed and 39 wounded in 15 attacks.

The military was able to reduce the attack rate by taking better security precautions.

The Taliban announced in May 2013 that they would carry out such infiltration attacks that were aimed at killing and demoralizing U.S., allied, and Afghan military and security forces.

The gunman, firing an M-16 from a bathroom window from a barracks near where the soldiers had gathered, was shot dead by NATO security personnel less than a minute after he unloaded a 30-clip magazine from an automatic rifle on the crowd of soldiers who had their backs to the building. The victims had been standing between 15 feet and 45 feet away.

The investigation into the shooting "did not identify any clear links between Rafiqullah and the Taliban or other extremist groups," the report stated.

The report said investigators continue to probe the shooter but stated that "limited cooperation" from the Afghan Defense Ministry "made this process difficult."

"It may be that the shooter was self-radicalized, or that he suffered from some sort of psychological condition (which is what the [Afghan National Army] claims is the cause," the report stated.

Investigators conducted interviews with several detained people and concluded that "it appears the shooting was not premeditated, and the shooter simply took advantage [of] a target of opportunity provided by the close gathering," the report said.

The Afghan shooter was a 22-year-old Pashtun from Paktiya province who worked for a guard force whose commander was detained Aug. 10.

Rafiqullah was a military policeman and the Afghan military claimed there were no indications of anti-U.S. or anti-international forces troops.

"However, our investigation indicated he may have had some bias against coalition forces," the report said, adding that a translator said Rafiqullah had expressed "disdain for Americans, in particular."

According to the Afghan military, Rafiqullah "had purported grievances with his chain of command," the report said, adding that "based on the spontaneity of the gathering and his grievances, it is likely this was a target of opportunity against both the ANA and the coalition forces, rather than a pre-meditated attack."

The attack however, was praised by a Taliban spokesman the day of the shooting. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Majahid stated on the Voice of Jihad website that the shooter was a "passionate Afghan soldier and martyr." The Taliban did not claim responsibility for the attack and have not stated that he was trained or operating on behalf of the terror group.

Greene was shot in the pelvis and twice in the head and neck and died immediately, the report said.

Danish military forces were in charge of force protection for the event and Australian sharpshooters were deployed at one location during the general’s visit.

Patrick Poole, a counterterrorism analyst, said 13 years into the Afghan war and despite scores of "green-on-blue insider attacks," the Pentagon continues to misidentify such attackers as "self-radicalized" or "lone wolf" strikes rather than part of the Islamist global jihad movement.

"What the real world use of these terms means is that the U.S. government doesn't want to know why our service members are dead," Poole said.

Poole said the April 2011 shooting by an Afghan air force colonel in Kabul that killed nine Americans was blamed on personal grievances "despite multiple reports that he had returned to Afghanistan with the stated purpose of killing Americans."

"At Fort Hood, Maj. Nidal Hasan was giving PowerPoint briefings about the Quranic justification for killing his fellow soldiers and was in active email correspondence with al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki with the full knowledge of the FBI, but it was officially deemed an instance of ‘workplace violence,’" he added.

"It's tragic that not only have these military families lost their loved ones, but their own government won't tell them why for fear of revealing their own incompetence and negligence in identifying the ideological threat operating right under their noses," Poole said.

The Centcom report concluded that there was "no negligence" on the part of those who planned the general’s visit.

"This incident could not have been reasonably foreseen or prevented, appearing as an isolated act of a determined shooter without indicators or warnings," the report said.

It recommended that a high-level military risk assessment be conducted prior to similar visits, and an appropriately approved security plan for similar events.

For the soldiers that aided in killing the shooter and assisting the wounded, Centcom recommended that the Bronze Star Medal for Valor be awarded to an Army solider and Danish army soldier. Neither was identified by name. The Danish soldier returned fire and is believed to have killed the shooter.

The Army soldier was standing in front of the bathroom window when the shooting began and was wounded in the arm and side yet was able to return fire in killing the shooter.

A third Bronze Star was awarded to an Army soldier who also returned fire.

The investigative report was signed by Army Brig. Gen. Donald E. Jackson.

Published under: Afghanistan