A U.S. general was wounded in an attack last week in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province that killed two senior Afghan provincial officials and targeted a group that included the senior U.S. commander in the country, four people with knowledge of the assault said.
Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Smiley is recovering after suffering at least one gunshot wound inside the Kandahar governor’s compound, three of the people said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. U.S. military officials in Afghanistan and at the Pentagon have declined to comment on the attack or identify the wounded, describing them only as an American service member, an American civilian and a contractor who is part of the military coalition.
“We’re not going to talk about the wounded,” said Army Col. David Butler, the top military spokesman in Afghanistan.
The New York Times first reported that a general was wounded, without identifying him. After this story was initially published by The Washington Post on Sunday, Butler confirmed on Twitter that Smiley was wounded.
The attack caught the U.S. military by surprise. General officers are rarely in situations where they face attack, and even more rarely wounded. An American general was last attacked in 2014, when Maj. Gen. Harold Greene was killed in an insider attack at the Marshal Fahim National Defense University west of Kabul.
Among those present during the attack in Kandahar was Army Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, the top U.S. officer in Afghanistan. Butler has said that the U.S. officials present were caught in the crossfire after a gunman started shooting. The Taliban asserted responsibility for the attack and said Miller was among the main targets.
Smiley has served in the Army for just over 30 years and became a general in May 2017, according to an official biography. He deployed in Afghanistan this summer, taking command of a unit with headquarters in Kandahar known as Train, Advise, Assist and Command-South. The headquarters is largely composed of members of the 40th Infantry Division, a unit of the California Army National Guard. Smiley has commanded Guard units in California for years.
The Afghan officials killed include Kandahar’s top police general, Abdul Raziq, a powerful but controversial security official who had survived numerous assassination attempts. He had risen to power while clearing the Taliban from Kandahar but was accused of extrajudicial killings, torture and other human rights abuses. He denied the allegations.
Also killed was Kandahar’s intelligence chief, Abdul Momin. The governor, Zalmai Wessa, was shot but survived.
The attack prompted the Afghan government to postpone voting in Kandahar for parliamentary elections by a week. The elections were held Saturday across most of the country, with some Afghans waiting hours to vote.
“Today we proved together that we uphold democracy,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani tweeted Saturday. “With casting our ballots without fear we honor the sacrifices of the fallen.”