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