- Associated Press - Monday, September 26, 2011

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan working for the U.S. government killed a CIA contractor and wounded another American in an attack on the intelligence agency’s office in Kabul, officials said Monday, making it the latest in a series of high-profile attacks this month on U.S. targets.

The incident marked the most recent in a growing number of attacks this year by Afghans working with international forces in the country. Some assailants have turned out to be Taliban sleeper agents, while others have been motivated by personal grievances.

The assailant in Sunday evening’s shooting was killed, and it was not yet clear if he acted alone or if he belonged to an insurgent group.

A U.S. official in Washington said the Afghan attacker was providing security to the CIA office and that the American who died was working as a contractor for the CIA. The official requested anonymity because he was speaking about intelligence matters.

The CIA declined to comment.

Gunfire first was heard sometime after 8 p.m. local time (11:30 a.m. EDT) around the former Ariana Hotel, a building that ex-U.S. intelligence officials said is the CIA station in Kabul. The spy agency occupied the heavily secured building, which is just blocks away from the Afghan Presidential Palace, in late 2001 after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban.

The U.S. Embassy acknowledged that an Afghan employee of the complex carried out the attack.

“The motivation for the attack is still under investigation,” the embassy said in a statement.

Embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall declined to comment on what the targeted annex was used for, citing security reasons. Mr. Sundwall said the Afghan employee was not authorized to carry a weapon, and it was not clear how the man was able to get a gun into the secured compound.

The embassy did not provide information on the American who was killed, and it said the person wounded in the shooting was taken to a military hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening. It said the embassy had “resumed business operations.”

The attack came less than two weeks after militants fired rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles at the U.S. Embassy, NATO headquarters and other buildings in Kabul, killing seven Afghans. No embassy or NATO staff members were hurt in the 20-hour assault, but it plunged U.S.-Pakistan relations to new lows as U.S. officials accused Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency of supporting insurgents in planning and executing the Sept. 13 attack.

Nearly 80 American soldiers were wounded and two Afghan civilians were killed in a truck bombing targeting an American base in eastern Afghanistan on Sept. 10. American officials also blamed that attack on insurgents from the Haqqani network, who allegedly are supported by Pakistani intelligence. Senior Pakistani officials reject the allegations.

Sunday’s assault also followed closely on last week’s assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was leading a government effort to broker peace with the Taliban. He was killed when an insurgent claiming to be a peace emissary detonated a bomb hidden in his turban upon meeting Rabbani.

President Hamid Karzai called Rabbani’s death a “big loss” and said greater security measures should be taken to protect top Afghan figures, including religious clerics and tribal leaders. A government spokesman said the man who brought the suicide bomber to Kabul has been arrested.

NATO bases and embassies have ramped up security following a number of attacks over the past year by Afghan security forces against their counterparts. Since March 2009, the coalition has recorded at least 20 incidents where a member of the Afghan security forces or someone wearing a uniform used by them killed coalition forces. Thirty-six coalition troops have died in the attacks. It is not known how many of the 282,000 members of the Afghan security forces were killed.

In December 2009, an al Qaeda double agent blew himself up at a CIA base in eastern Khost province, killing seven CIA employees. The attacker, a Jordanian man named Humam al-Balawi, was brought into the base because he claimed to be able to reach high-level al Qaeda leaders.

Meanwhile, political tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan continued to mount Monday. The Afghan Foreign Ministry warned that relations with its neighbor will suffer if cross-border artillery attacks hitting eastern Afghanistan continue.

The Afghan government has said an unknown number of Afghan civilians have been killed by the shelling coming from Pakistani territory in recent days. The attacks allegedly have destroyed several houses and mosques and displaced hundreds of people.

The Foreign Ministry quoted Mohammad Sadeq, Pakistan’s ambassador in Kabul, as saying that the attacks were not intentional and that he regretted the killings and the destruction of property.

The Afghan censure comes as U.S. officials have sharpened their missives to Pakistan over the past week, drawing more direct lines between the government and the Haqqani network, which is affiliated with the Taliban and al Qaeda and often is blamed for attacks in Kabul.

NATO said Monday that its operations in the east in the past four months have killed more than 450 enemy fighters but that it is believes the Haqqanis, who control large areas in the east, still are operating out of Pakistan.

“We have no credible intelligence indicating that the Haqqani network has eliminated their operating safe havens in Pakistan,” said German Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, a spokesman for NATO forces in Afghanistan. “They continue to plan and execute operations from across the border.”

In the south on Monday, a NATO service member was killed in a bomb attack, pushing to 38 the number of international troopers killed this month.

Associated Press writer Adam Goldman in Washington contributed to this report.