The Army's investigation records show that U.S. officials in Afghanistan were told immediately after the assault that it was perpetrated by one or more Afghan soldiers — not insurgents.
"Yes, we know the shooter," the Afghan army liaison officer told Lt. Col. John Cook, the commander of Lawrence's and Russell's unit, after being summoned back to the compound just moments after the killings. The Afghan officer named Enayut without hesitation.
Asked why its Oct. 9 report was never corrected, the international military command in Kabul said it knew that at least one of the shooters was wearing an Afghan army uniform, "but as that information was unconfirmed, a correction to the original (press) release was not appropriate."
In April the AP was alerted to the attack's true circumstances by an American soldier who knew the real story. The U.S. military in Kabul acknowledged to the AP in May that it had added the incident to its 2011 list of insider attacks. But it refused to provide any details of what happened.
The story of the killing of Lawrence and Russell raises hard questions about the insider attack problem, starting with this: How can it happen to arguably the world's best-trained, best-equipped army? The answer, in this case, is that the Americans designed their security with external threats in mind — known Taliban tactics like suicide car bombings, for example — rather than threats from their Afghan allies.
Was that reasonable?
Yes, says Maj. Gen. James L. Huggins, who ordered the internal Army investigation in his capacity as the senior U.S. commander in southern Afghanistan at the time. In rejecting the investigation's central finding — that U.S. officers had failed to take necessary security precautions — Huggins wrote that the security arrangements were "appropriate responses" to available intelligence.
"Only (in) hindsight do we now understand the insider threat present at the time of the attack," he wrote on Dec. 17, 2011.
In making that judgment, Huggins overruled the colonel who conducted the investigation. The colonel, whose name was removed from the copy of the report provided to the AP, wrote in his account that the U.S. chain of command in Kandahar "failed to use the appropriate security and force protection measures to secure the compound and safeguard their soldiers."
The colonel faulted the Kandahar commanders for "unchecked reliance" on the Afghans to "police their own ranks." He recommended action be taken against those leaders, but Huggins rejected the advice, saying he believed they had taken reasonable precautions, given that there was "no known insider threat at the time."
Of the 16 insider attacks that preceded this one in 2011, none had occurred in Kandahar province, but two took place in adjacent provinces within Huggins' area of responsibility, according to U.S. records.
Huggins, who now works for the director of the Army staff at the Pentagon and has been selected for promotion to lieutenant general, declined through a spokesman to be interviewed for this story. In a brief encounter last week, Huggins told the AP he could not remember enough about the case to discuss it.
The U.S. military never established a clear motive for the attack in Kandahar. In its aftermath numerous Afghans told U.S. officers they felt shamed by the killings and were sorry for any mistrust it created. But that sentiment apparently was not universal.
LeVan told investigators that the day after the attack he and other soldiers encountered an Afghan soldier who "gave us a vibe that he wished we were killed."
Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez in Kabul contributed to this report.
Robert Burns can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/robertburnsAP
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