COMMENTARY | Early reports from Balandi, Afghanistan, have confirmed an American soldier left his base near the Kandahar province at approximately 3 a.m. Sunday morning and subsequently killed 16 civilians in what local villagers are referring to as a “massacre.” Among the dead are nine children.
Motivation for the attack is unknown. Upon completing the shootings the soldier allegedly returned to his base and surrendered quietly.
Repose from the White House
In a statement released by the White House, President Obama referred to the attacks as “tragic and shocking.” Additionally he reached out to Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressing the same sentiment.
In the wake of the attacks, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta confirmed an investigation has already been launchED. President Obama went on to say that his desire was to “get the facts as quickly as possible and hold accountable anyone responsible.”
As reported by CBS News, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul has issued warnings to all Americans in Afghanistan to be on the alert of demonstrations and anti-American sentiment.
Response from Afghanistan
“This is an assassination, an intentional killing of innocent civilians and cannot be forgiven,” said the Afghan president.
Given the violence and dissension that resulted from the burning of the Korans near a U.S military base in the same region about a month ago, there is sure to be an insurgence resulting from both the actions of the unidentified American soldier and the harsh words of Hamid Karzai.
Most interestingly, Karzai commented this was an assassination by American forces. It is unknown if he misspoke of truly believes that more than one American soldier took part in the tragedy.
The president’s impossible position
Unfortunately for President Obama, he now finds himself in the unenviable position as Commander in Chief of apologizing to Afghanistan while attempting to complete our military directive in the country. With so much accomplished by the U.S. military in its fight against terrorism, this latest incident is a significant setback.
This is certain to renew concerns at home regarding our continued presence in Afghanistan. It will also provide fuel to an already angry Republican Party desirous of further explanation of the president’s long term intentions in dealing with the Middle East.
For the president, the weekend’s events have turned into a debacle in foreign relations just when it appeared a certain degree of normalcy was returning to our relations with Afghanistan.
Whatever the president decides our current course of action should be, his image and the perception of the United States has taken a major and, perhaps, irreparable hit.
Robert Watkins is former investment professional and partner. He lives with his family in Glen Mills, Pa., and is a frequent contributor to Yahoo! News.