By Rob Taylor
KABUL Aug 21 Insurgents fired two rockets at
the main NATO airbase in Afghanistan, damaging an aircraft used
by U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Martin Dempsey, a NATO
spokesman said on Tuesday. The general was not on board at the
Dempsey arrived in the country on Monday in a C-17 transport
aircraft which was parked at Bagram Airbase, north of Kabul,
when two rockets landed near the apron late on Monday night,
slightly wounding two ground staff.
"He was nowhere near the aircraft. We think it was a lucky
shot," NATO senior spokesman Colonel Thomas Collins said.
The aircraft was only being used temporarily by Dempsey and
his staff. Shrapnel from the rockets also damaged a nearby
Dempsey, who had been in the country for talks with NATO and
Afghan commanders on a string of recent rogue shootings, was
sleeping in his quarters when the rounds struck and left the
country afterwards on another aircraft.
"No one was seriously injured in the attack," a Pentagon
Bagram, which is home to around 30,000 military and civilian
personnel, is occasionally targeted with rockets and mortar
shells fired by insurgents from surrounding hills and fields. In
2007, the heavily guarded base was targeted during a visit by
former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney.
Sporadic attacks also occur at NATO's other main airbase in
Afghanistan, Kandahar Airfield, in the volatile south, although
they rarely cause deaths or major damage.
A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack in
a text message and denied it was indirect fire, saying it was
based on "accurate information". But the insurgents are often
quick to claim any incidents as successes.
Before leaving Afghanistan, Dempsey met his Afghan
counterpart, General Sher Mohammad Karimi, who raised the issue
of insider attacks by rogue forces that have killed 10 American
troops in the past two weeks.
"In the past, it's been us pushing on them to make sure they
do more," he said on Monday. "This time, without prompting, when
I met General Karimi, he started with a conversation about
insider attacks - and, importantly, insider attacks not just
against us, but insider attacks against the Afghans, too."
Officials in Kandahar on Tuesday sacked the police chief in
Spin Boldak district over the weekend shooting of another NATO
soldier by an Afghan police officer.
"These actions will not be tolerated. We stand by out
partners," the Kandahar governor's office said in a Twitter
message announcing the sacking.
Afghan authorities have promised to improve vetting of
police and soldiers to curb insider attacks, while also
increasing the number of intelligence officers within Afghan
units to identify infiltrators and disgruntled personnel.
There have been 32 insider attacks so far this year
involving 36 shooters that have led to 40 coalition deaths, just
over half of them Americans. Some 69 coalition troops have been
wounded. That's a sharp increase from 2011, when 35 coalition
troops were killed, 24 of whom were U.S. troops during the year.