New details emerge about death of Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, killed in Afghanistan


Then-Brig. Gen. Harold Greene addresses a crowd in 2011. (U.S. Army photo)

It has been a little more than 24 hours since Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene became the first U.S. general officer killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That makes it a painful time for a lot of people, and one in which the way he lived is being remembered and the way he died is being examined for answers.

As The Washington Post reported yesterday, Greene was a key figure in the U.S.-led military coalition’s training of Afghan troops. He served as the deputy commanding general of Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan. Commonly abbreviated CSTCA-A and pronounced “See-stick-uh,” it is based in Kabul at Camp Eggers, near the U.S. Embassy and the Afghan presidential palace.

Greene was killed while visiting the Marshal Fahim National Defense University. The facility, in the Qarga district of Kabul province, was known as the Afghan National Defense University until earlier this year.

Here’s a look at some of the lesser known details to emerge in the last 24 hours:

Remembering the general
Known to his friends as Harry, Greene was recalled by colleagues yesterday as a family man who was an expert in logistics and wanted to be serving in Afghanistan. The Los Angeles Times reported that his wife, Sue Myers, is a retired Army colonel, and they have two grown children, Matthew and Amelia. Matthew is a lieutenant in the Army and a graduate of West Point.

“He was so proud of them,” a former professor of his, Florian Mansfeld, told the Times. “Every time he writes or sends me a letter for Christmas and New Year’s, he would write about his two children and how great they were.”

Greene had a passion for making soldiers’ lives better through technology, something that came in to play when he served as the senior commander of the Natick Soldier Systems Center in Massachusetts a few years ago. Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales told Army Times that Greene was particularly concerned about the needs of combat troops.

“Whether it was [improvised explosive devices] or soldier protection or intelligence and surveillance, he always had a tactical view of research and development and acquisition,” Scales told Army Times. “When he was at Natick, he had a real sense of what was important. Harry was always the one who always understood the tactical needs of the close-combat soldiers.”

A man believed to be an Afghan soldier has killed a U.S. general and wounded more than a dozen coalition troops after opening fire at a military training facility in Kabul. (Reuters)

How it happened
An official with the International Security Assistance Force leading coalition operations in Afghanistan told CNN on Wednesday that Greene and other coalition troops were standing outside at the training academy when a lone gunman opened fire on them from about 100 yards away. The shooter was inside a building at the time, CNN reported.

The attacker was armed with a machine gun, and surprised Greene and other officials who were visiting the academy, according to the Wall Street Journal. The use of a machine gun would in part explain the high number of casualties — 17 other troops were wounded, the newspaper said. Many other news accounts put the number of casualties at 15, plus Greene.

CBS News reported Wednesday that the attacker, identified as Rafiqullah, hid in a bathroom before the attack. It, too, reported the use of a machine gun, and said it was a NATO weapon. Two Afghan generals at the academy were wounded, the report said.

The Washington Post and others reported yesterday that a German one-star general was also among the wounded. He is Brig. Gen. Michael Bartscher, according to accounts by the Associated Press and others. The German defense ministry called it a “malicious and cowardly attack,” the AP said.

Previously on Checkpoint:
Maj. Gen. Harold Greene isn’t the first fatality: A history of U.S. generals killed in combat

President Obama paid tribute to fallen soldier Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene on Thursday during an appearance at Fort Belvoir military base in Virginia. Greene was killed by insider fire in Afghanistan. (Reuters)
Dan Lamothe covers national security for The Washington Post and anchors its military blog, Checkpoint.
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Dan Lamothe · August 5