Taken together, the spate of fraternal violence points to a serious problem with the loyalty of some members of the Afghan security forces and their vulnerability to infiltration by the Taliban. The problem, for the moment, appears to have no simple solution. The Afghan military has begun an assessment to identify vulnerabilities in bases, register every member in a biometric database, and develop a counterintelligence force. But such measures are time-consuming and still cannot prevent soldiers from spontaneously turning on their comrades and partners.
The attack Wednesday morning turned a routine meeting on the first floor of the Air Force building — on the military side of Kabul’s airport — into a scene of bloodshed and mayhem. The American advisers had gathered there as they do daily, according to Afghan officers present, when a pilot who had served for about two decades in the Afghan air force suddenly opened fire.
Another account, provided by a Defense Ministry spokesman, said the air force officer got into a heated argument during the meeting, left the room, then came back and started shooting.
From his third-floor office, an Afghan air force general heard the gunfire and saw people jumping out of windows to escape the fusillade. In addition to the Americans who were killed, an Afghan soldier died and five others were wounded. A U.S. reaction force surrounded the building and neighboring offices and prevented people from leaving while they secured the scene. Another Afghan officer on the compound identified the shooter as Ahmad Gul.
“I’m amazed. I have no idea why he would do this,” the officer said.
One Afghan air force intelligence officer at the meeting said the shooter opened fire with no warning and jumped out the window in a panic to escape, injuring his leg in the process, according to the officer’s son, Samin Haq Barwar.
The Afghan air force, with about 4,000 members, is the smallest and least developed of the Afghan security forces. It has a small fleet of cargo planes and helicopters, although Afghan defense officials have been pushing for the United States to buy the force fighter jets.