The savage murder of 16 civilians in Afghanistan by an American soldier is the latest in a series of tragic events that have jeopardized the Afghani and U.S relations. The U.S Army has identified a veteran staff sergeant as the lone shooter, although at this time his name is being withheld. He is 38, married with two children and a veteran of three tours of duty in Iraq. He had only been in Afghanistan since December. The murders were exceedingly brutal. Many of the victims were women and children. The sergeant somehow left his base with his weapons, walked to two different villages, broke into several homes, and killed his victims in execution style. As mentioned above, the unprovoked killings are only the latest in a series of events that have jeopardized the U.S.-Afghani relationship. Afghanis were outraged by the accidental burning of the Koran by U.S. soldiers in a trash incinerator. The outrage led to the death of six American soldiers. A few weeks prior to the Koran incident a video emerged showing American soldiers urinating on the dead bodies of apparent Taliban militants.
The killings raise a number of troubling questions for the Obama administration as well as for the Republicans seeking to become their party’s nominee. It also raises troubling and critical questions about the legal ramifications and procedures for putting the solider on trial. According to a report in the Bloomberg Businessweek some Afghani legislators “want the American solider tried in an Afghan court.” This desire was support by hundreds of protesters in Afghanistan.However, according to a U.S-Afghan accord the U.S. retains legal jurisdiction over American soldiers. According to the Voice of America President Hamid Karzai condemned the attacks, calling them in a statement an “inhuman and intentional act” and demanding justice. The Obama administration is promising a complete investigation into the event. According to a report in the New York Times, “The United States takes this as seriously as if this was our own citizens and our own children who were murdered.”
Perhaps the most troubling question is the why question. According to various news reports, the solider apparently confessed to the killings. It was first reported on March 12 that the soldier returned to the base on his own accord after the killings However, ABC News reported on its March 13evening broadcast that a search team, including helicopters, were dispatched to look for him and that he was discovered trying to sneak back onto base. ABC also reported that alcohol may have been involved. Since the soldier was on his fourth tour of duty post-traumatic syndrome and depression is also being considered. Finally, several sources also report that the solider suffered a traumatic brain injury in a jeep rollover in Iraq in 2010. He was evaluated by U.S. Army doctors and determined fit for duty. One of the other questions, especially on the Afghan side of the equation, is if the killings were the result of one rogue soldier or the product of a more sinister plot.