Did the 2011 Kabul Airport Massacre Shooter Really Act Alone?
by DIANA WEST
November 27, 2012
The LA Times reports:
On the morning of April 27 last year, Afghan Air Force Col. Ahmed Gul walked into a control room on the Afghan military side of the Kabul international airport. He was armed with a Smith & Wesson pistol provided by the United States military.
Within minutes, eight U.S. Air Force advisors and an American contractor were shot dead. The advisors were executed with bullets to the head. The nine killings remain the single deadliest incident among insider attacks that have targeted U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan.
A couple of previous posts here and here.
An Air Force investigation concluded that Gul, who had been radicalized by Islamist extremists, acted alone. ...
My take on the Air Force investigation here. Also, here is a report worth revisiting on the anti-infidel invective of Kabul mosques (Ahmed Gul attended one such mosque), which I now notice includes the revelation that in February 2011, two months before Gul's rampage, investigators uncovered at a city mosque a plot to attack the Kabul airport. They also found bombs in the imam's bedroom.
Widows of two of the dead officers, along with a former Air Force legal officer, are convinced that Gul had help from fellow Afghan officers.
"You'd have to suspend disbelief to assume one Afghan airman could shoot and kill nine Americans, eight of them armed and well-trained," said retired Air Force Lt. Col. Sally Stenton, a former civilian police investigator who was a legal officer assigned to the airport the day of the attack. ...
The two widows and Stenton have pored over a redacted Air Force report, the Central Command report and a separate Air Force chronology. They point out that 14 Afghans were in the control room when Gul opened fire. None were killed or seriously wounded. ...
The Air Force investigation also reveals, as noted here, that during the melee, Gul shouted to Afghan security forces from a window: "Good Muslims - please stay away! Muslims don't come close or you will be killed!" Inside the building, as the LA Times notes, none of the 14 Afghans in the room were killed or seriously wounded.
The U.S. Air Force investigation quoted Afghans as saying they fled or took cover when Gul opened fire.
Also in the investigation, one Afghan eyewitness describes seeking cover under his desk, where one of the Americans joined him. Gul, noticing this, came over and shot and killed the American. The Afghan was shot in the arm and stomach with one bullet. "Collateral" damage? Cover-up damage? The Afghan witness cited his shooting as evidence the shooter was not targeting Americans: "[Redacted] did not believe SUBJECT [shooter] targeted mentors [Americans] because SUBJECT shot him."
On the day of the massacre, ABC News' Martha Raddatz reported that "a U.S. official" told ABC that it was believed the killer "forced the Americans to remove their weapons before shooting them with a U.S. provided M9 semi-automatic weapon." Whether this theory was ever investigated by the Air Force is unclear. What remains is the Air Force legal officer's and the two widows' disbelief that one shooter could methodically shoot nine Americans, eight of them armed and well-trained, in the head without an accomplice. At the very least, the official investigation established the 14 Afghans in the room did nothing to assist the Americans during the shooting or afterward.
The reports, the three women said, indicated the Afghans did not attempt to rescue or treat the wounded advisors. ...
According to the Air Force report, Gul opened fire while standing inside the control room. Maj. Ausborn was one of the first two Americans shot. Gul then shot five more Air Force advisors, including a female sergeant and an American civilian contractor.
Gul paused to reload and retrieve the pistol of a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel he had shot. Americans in an adjoining conference room ran into a hallway, where two U.S. Air Force captains - including Nathan Nylander - drew their weapons. Nylander was wounded in both thighs and subsequently shot in the head by Gul. Investigators concluded that Nylander's handgun had jammed during the shootout. The other captain was not injured.
Gul was wounded and retreated down a hallway. Investigators believe he paused to write "God is the only one" in blood on a wall. He went upstairs and apparently shot himself in the chest and left side - possibly after being wounded by an Afghan military response team.
Public affairs officers for the Air Force and Central Command referred questions to the International Security Assistance Force. ...
And a lot of good that did.
Hamilton said it was agonizing to relive her husband's death while studying the Air Force reports - and deeply troubling to hear about new insider killings every month.
"The worst thing is knowing there are more widows and more kids going through the same horrible things we went through," Hamilton said. "It has to stop."
Diana West is a journalist and columnist whose writing appears in several high profile outlets. She also has a website: DianaWest.net.