Kabul International Airport. (Wikimedia Commons)
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Eight of the nine Americans who were murdered by an Afghan colonel in 2011 never had a chance to fire back at their attacker, the final investigation into the incident concluded.
The inquiry also determined that the colonel did not commit suicide, as previously thought. Rather, he was mostly likely killed by a member of the Afghan quick reaction force.
The April 27, 2011, mass shooting inside the Afghan Air Force headquarters at Kabul International Airport was the deadliest “green-on-blue” incident of the Afghan war, in which supposed Afghan allies have turned their weapons on U.S. service members without warning. Eight members of the U.S. Air Force and one U.S. contractor were killed in the shooting.
The final investigation ordered by U.S. Central Command was completed in May 2013 but was provided July 31 to Air Force Times through a Freedom of Information Act request. The investigator disagreed with two major findings in the previous inquiries.
The Air Force Office of Special Investigations concluded in September 2011 that Afghan Col. Ahmed Gul turned the gun on himself after the killing spree.
“The evidence and witness statements indicate Col. Gul was most likely killed by the Afghan Quick Reaction Force,” the final investigation states. “Secondly, I find that the evidence does not indicate that a ‘lack of warrior ethos’ accounts for why the eight American victims did not touch their weapons in response to Col. Gul opening fire.”
Lt. Col. Frank Bryant, Maj. David Brodeur, Maj. Jeffrey Ausborn, Maj. Philip Ambard, Maj. Raymond Estelle II, Capt. Charles Ransom, Tech. Sgt. Tara Brown and contractor James McLaughlin died before they had the chance to draw their weapons, the report said.
The ninth American killed, Capt. Nathan Nylander, was in an adjoining conference room when he heard the shooting inside the Air Command and Control Center. Instead of leaving the building, he responded to the ACCC and engaged the gunman until his weapon jammed. Gul shot and killed Nylander when he tried to exit building.
Nylander was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his heroics.
The investigation further found there was no evidence any of the 14 Afghan nationals who were present at the time of the shooting “were implicitly involved in the killings,” according to the findings.
The investigation also could establish no link between the massacre and alleged abuses by the Afghan air force to transport drugs and weapons around the country, but stated that the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan and the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan had not opened any probe into such allegations.
The investigation was ordered in January 2013 to address questions a previous inquiry did not answer, the report said. It also addresses questions from victims’ family members as well as 81 congressional inquiries into the shooting.