From The New York Times:
PANJWAI, Afghanistan — Stalking from home to home, a United States Army sergeant methodically killed at least 16 civilians, 9 of them children, in a rural stretch of southern Afghanistan early on Sunday, igniting fears of a new wave of anti-American hostility, Afghan and American officials said…
Coming after a period of deepening public outrage, spurred by the Koran burning by American personnel last month and an earlier video showing American Marines urinating on dead militants, the possibility of a violent reaction to the killings added to a feeling of siege here among Western personnel. Officials described growing concern over a cascade of missteps and offenses that has cast doubt on the ability of NATO personnel to carry out their mission and has left troops and trainers increasingly vulnerable to violence by Afghans seeking revenge.
The fatal shootings of 16 Afghan civilians, allegedly by an American soldier, add to a series of incendiary incidents that threaten to drain remaining U.S. and European support for the decade-long mission…
Any violent backlash by Afghans to the shootings in the southern province of Kandahar may add to domestic pressure on President Barack Obama to speed troop withdrawals, ahead of the the security handover now set for 2014.
From The Los Angeles Times:
The killing of 16 civilians in Afghanistan, allegedly by a lone U.S. serviceman, is one more blow to President Obama’s hopes for an easy exit from a 10-year-old war and deepens doubts about U.S. plans to assign advisors to Afghan forces.
From The Washington Post:
The massacre of at least 16 Afghan civilians, apparently by an American soldier, forced the Obama administration Sunday to confront yet another nightmare from the war zone and fresh evidence that patience back home is increasingly wearing thin.
“Cast doubt on the ability of NATO personnel to carry out their mission,” “pressure on…Obama to speed troop withdrawals,” “one more blow to President Obama’s hopes for an easy exit,” “patience back home is…wearing thin.” Those phrases seem understatements of the sentiment here at home relative to what has so obviously become a no-win war.
In June of last year—against the advice of then-General Petraeus and then-Defense Secretary Gates—Mr. Obama prudently announced an acceleration of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and said most of our goals there were met. “The tide of war is receding,” he declared, adding,
America, it is time to focus on nation-building here at home…We will not try to make Afghanistan a perfect place. We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely.
Ironically, that New York Times story from last June included this:
…troops have succeeded in clearing many towns and cities of insurgents, and then keeping them safe…
And today’s Times story described the alleged shooter this way:
…he had been part of what is called a village stabilization operation in Afghanistan. In those operations, teams of Green Berets, supported by other soldiers, try to develop close ties with village elders, organize local police units and track down Taliban leaders.
Who can blame some Afghanis—especially those in the Panjwai district of Kandahar Province where this atrocity took place— for thinking that not only are they not “safe” from the Taliban, but it may not be the Taliban they have to fear.
For all of the good we have done there, for all of the costs in lives and dollars, our efforts in Afghanistan seem now to be doing more harm than we could ever have imagined.
It is time for Mr. Obama to accelerate the acceleration and get out soon, very soon.