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Old March 11th, 2012   #1
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Default Soldier goes on a rampage in Kandahar, kills 16

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/12/wo...dier-held.html

Quote:
American Is Held After Shooting of Civilians in Afghanistan
By TAIMOOR SHAH and GRAHAM BOWLEY

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 Aghanistan early Sunday, igniting fears of a new wave of anti-American hostility, Afghan and American officials said.

Residents of three villages in the Panjwai district of Kandahar Province described a terrifying string of attacks in which the soldier, who had walked more than a mile from his base, tried door after door, eventually breaking in to kill within three separate houses. At the first, the man gathered 11 bodies, including those of four girls younger than 6, and set fire to them, villagers 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 apparently unprovoked killings added to a feeling of siege here among Western personnel. And officials described a growing sense of concern over a cascading series 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.

President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack, calling it in a statement an “inhuman and intentional act” and demanding justice. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta later called Mr. Karzai to express “profound regret” and assure that “this terrible incident does not reflect our shared values or the progress we have made together,” Mr. Panetta’s office said in a statement.

American officials in Kabul were scrambling to understand what had happened, and appealed for calm. Officials gave no details about the suspected killer other than to describe him as an Army staff sergeant who was acting alone. “The initial reporting that we have at this time indicates there was one shooter, and we have one man in custody,” said Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, a NATO spokesman.

In Panjwai, a reporter for The New York Times who inspected bodies that had been taken to the nearby American military base counted 16 dead, and saw burns on some of the children’s legs and heads. “All the family members were killed, the dead put in a room, and blankets were put over the corpses and they were burned,” said Anar Gul, an elderly neighbor who rushed to the house after the soldier had left. “We put out the fire.”

The villagers also brought some of the burned blankets on motorbikes to display at the base, Camp Belambay, in Kandahar, and show that the bodies had been set alight. Soon, more than 300 people had gathered outside to protest.

At least five other Afghans were wounded in the attacks, officials said, some of them seriously, indicating the death toll could rise. NATO said several casualties were being treated at a military hospital.

One of the survivors from the attack, Abdul Hadi, 40, said he was at home when a soldier broke down the door.

“My father went out to find out what was happening, and he was killed,” he said. “I was trying to go out and find out about the shooting but someone told me not to move, and I was covered by the women in my family in my room, so that is why I survived.”

Mr. Hadi said there was more than one soldier involved in the attack, and at least five other villagers described seeing a number of soldiers, and also a helicopter and flares at the scene. But that claim was unconfirmed — other Afghan residents described seeing only one shooter — and it was unclear whether or not extra troops sent out to the village after the attack to try to catch the suspect.

In a measure of the mounting levels of mistrust between Afghans and the coalition, however, many Afghans, including lawmakers and other officials, said they believed the attack had been planned and were incredulous that one American soldier could have carried out such an attack without help. In his statement, President Karzai said “American forces” had entered the houses in Panjwai, but at another point he said the killings were the act of an individual soldier.

Others called for calm. Abdul Hadi Arghandehwal, the minister of economy and the leader of Hezb-e Islami, a major Afghan political party with Islamist leanings, said there would probably be new protests. But he said the killings should be seen as the act of an individual and not of the United States.

“It is not the decision of the army officer to order somebody to do something like this,” he said. “Probably there are going to be many demonstrations, but it will not change the decisions of our government about our relationship with the United States.”

Elsewhere, news of the killings was spreading only slowly. Other than the protest at the base in Kandahar, there were no immediate signs of the fury that fueled rioting across the country after the burning of Korans by American military personnel in February.

Both the United States Embassy in Kabul, which immediately urged caution among Americans traveling or living in Afghanistan, and the military coalition rushed to head off any further outrage, deploring the attack, offering condolences for the families and promising the soldier would be brought to justice. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, the NATO spokesman, expressed his “deep sadness” and said that while the motive for the attack was not yet clear, it looked like an isolated incident.

“I am not linking this to the recent incidents over the recent days and weeks,” he said. “It looks very much like an individual act. We have to look into the background behind it.”

Adding to the sense of concern, the killings came two days after an episode in Kapisa Province, in eastern Afghanistan, in which NATO helicopters apparently hunting Taliban insurgents instead fired on civilians, killing four and wounding another three, Afghan officials said. About 1,200 demonstrators marched in protest in Kapisa on Saturday.

The quick American move on Sunday to detain the shooter could help to avoid a repeat of last month’s unrest. The reaction to the Koran-burning case revealed a huge cultural gap between the Americans, who saw it as an unfortunate mistake, and the Afghans, who viewed it as a crime and wanted to see those responsible tried as criminals.

Both the Afghans and Americans agreed on the severity of Sunday’s killings, and General Jacobson said the case would be aggressively pursued by American legal authorities.

Less clear, however, is the impact on continuing tense negotiations between the United States and Afghanistan on the terms of the long-term American presence in the country. The upheaval provoked by the Koran burnings led to a near-breakdown in strategic partnership talks between the Afghan and United States governments, although those negotiations appeared tentatively back on track after a deal struck Friday for the Afghans to assume control of the main coalition prison in six months.

The strategic partnership talks must still address differences over the American campaign of night raids on Afghan houses. It is unclear now what effect the latest episode will have on those talks — especially since the attack had some similarities to the night raids carried out by coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The shootings also carried some echoes of an attack in March 2007 in eastern Afghanistan, when several Marines opened fire with automatic weapons killing as many as 19 civilians after a suicide car bomb struck the Marines’ convoy, wounding one Marine.

Panjwai, a rural suburb of Kandahar, was traditionally a Taliban stronghold. It was a focus of the United States military offensive in 2010 and was the scene of heavy fighting. And in recent weeks, two American soldiers were killed by small-arms fire on the same day, March 1, in the area, and three died in a roadside bomb attack in February.

Taimoor Shah reported from Panjwai, and Graham Bowley from Kabul. Reporting was contributed by Sharifullah Sahak, Rod Nordland and Matthew Rosenberg from Kabul, and Eric Schmitt from Washington.
Guess the guy cracked from something, maybe someone he knew got killed recently. Its been really nasty with the perception of the populace towards the Americans, the Koran burnings making the tensions blow up. Some Afghan soldiers also killed some of their American advisers and counterparts.

It goes without saying though this won't improve the image of the mission over there though, especially since among those that were killed were children.
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Old March 11th, 2012   #2
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Default Re: Soldier goes on a rampage in Kandahar, kills 16

Yeah, a very despicable man. Nothing can hurt ISAF public image more than this. But insurgent bomb attacks kill a lot of children too, I wonder if the Afgan civilians are not annoyed by that?

So if it's an American "crusader" killing the civilians it's bad because it's a dhimmi infidel but if it's an insurgent it's not that bad? I haven't read of similar hatred for the insurgents killing children.

I'm saying this because according to the UN almost 80 % of the civilian casualties in Afghanistan were caused by the insurgents in 2011.

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Old March 11th, 2012   #3
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Default Re: Soldier goes on a rampage in Kandahar, kills 16

I wonder when he last rotated back to the states and how many combat tours he had in Afghanistan. Whether there's a correlation between people who go squify or not.

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Old March 11th, 2012   #4
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Default Re: Soldier goes on a rampage in Kandahar, kills 16

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rikupsoni View Post
Yeah, a very despicable man. Nothing can hurt ISAF public image more than this. But insurgent bomb attacks kill a lot of children too, I wonder if the Afgan civilians are not annoyed by that?

So if it's an American "crusader" killing the civilians it's bad because it's a dhimmi infidel but if it's an insurgent it's not that bad? I haven't read of similar hatred for the insurgents killing children.

I'm saying this because according to the UN almost 80 % of the civilian casualties in Afghanistan were caused by the insurgents in 2011.
I guess part of the problem is that we don't get to see the reactions of the people who were close to the victims. There is probably also a high chance that incidents like this or collateral damage from NATO bombs takes out entire families, so there aren't too many close ones left. Whatever outrage there is probably doesn't make it to the news here because the victims are often civilians, who will grieve but not go crazy about such incidents.
Radical Islamists, on the other hand, tend to get violent if they don't like something. If they kill people over cartoon depictions of Mohammed that is much more likely to hit the news.

Even so, I fear you may have a point. Not long ago I read about how it is a common practice in Afghanistan to sell daughters into slavery to settle disputes between families. Those people have a different culture and not all of it is pretty.

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Originally Posted by Nemmerle View Post
I wonder when he last rotated back to the states and how many combat tours he had in Afghanistan. Whether there's a correlation between people who go squify or not.
Apparently the soldier was apprehended. So maybe we will learn about his motivations at some point.

I wouldn't be surprised if some sort of Kurtz-like mentality was involved in this.
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Old March 12th, 2012   #5
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Default Re: Soldier goes on a rampage in Kandahar, kills 16

I dunno. Maybe he was just nuts - like those fellas who used to collect skulls and stuff. Liked the killing and wasn't getting any. Bought into the 'Hey, adventure!' ads a little too readily. Maybe he just couldn't take the pressure - walked around day after day with the feeling of people about to take a shot at him, or blow him up - imagining the civilians knowing and not saying anything - having a real good laugh.... Hell, maybe he was a terrorist for the other side and figured the most harm he could do was to join the army and go shoot up some civies.

There's so little evidence that pretty much nothing would surprise me at the moment.

-----

update, sorta:

Quote:
Officials have offered no explanation for the incident, but reports suggest the soldier might have been drunk, or had suffered a nervous breakdown.

The Pentagon confirmed that the soldier turned himself in to the military authorities after he returned to base.

Defence officials said that the soldier was from the conventional army, not special forces, and confirmed that he had completed multiple tours in Iraq but was on his first tour of duty in Afghanistan.
BBC News - Afghan massacre: US soldier 'acted alone' in Kandahar

That he went back to base and turned himself in is interesting. Possibly a point in favour of the 'just underwent too much and snapped.' direction. You'd think once he'd started he'd have continued until someone took him out or he was forced to surrender.


Last edited by Nemmerle; March 12th, 2012 at 10:41 AM.
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Old March 12th, 2012   #6
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Default Re: Soldier goes on a rampage in Kandahar, kills 16

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rikupsoni View Post
Yeah, a very despicable man. Nothing can hurt ISAF public image more than this. But insurgent bomb attacks kill a lot of children too, I wonder if the Afgan civilians are not annoyed by that?

So if it's an American "crusader" killing the civilians it's bad because it's a dhimmi infidel but if it's an insurgent it's not that bad? I haven't read of similar hatred for the insurgents killing children.

I'm saying this because according to the UN almost 80 % of the civilian casualties in Afghanistan were caused by the insurgents in 2011.
Most people, even the victims, overlook the fact that most of the casualties of Islamic terrorism are Muslims.

After decades of the Taliban slaughtering their own countrymen (although granted many Taliban fighters are foreign, Arab extremists), the Afghan civilian population still is divided over who to back, the ISAF or the Taliban. The ISAF only has the majority of the civilian support in certain provinces, whereas the Taliban still retains it in others. After a decade of building schools and infrastructure, and we still don't have all the hearts and minds. Then something like this happens, and we'll lose all that support. They'll instantly forget all the good we've done, and all the bad the Taliban has done.

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Old March 13th, 2012   #7
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Default Re: Soldier goes on a rampage in Kandahar, kills 16

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Most people, even the victims, overlook the fact that most of the casualties of Islamic terrorism are Muslims.
Actually, this is well acknowledged in Afghanistan. It's just that the ISAF are generally held to a higher standard (and should be), more so due to the fact that no one really 'asked' for them to be in the country in the first place and that they aren't violent guerrillas and terrorists. Unless of course you would like to lower them to that level.

There was an interview on the radio with a media figure in Afghanistan about people's perception of the event right now, and their decision to withhold pictures of the bodies from the TV networks. Among other things, he said that Afghani's have essentially become so desensitized to the news of dead civilians, be it as 'collateral' from ISAF operations or deaths from terrorists, that they've almost taken a cynical standpoint to all these events and seeing it yet another example of Afghanistan's spiral.

Today the media for exampled covered a militant attack on a delegation visiting the a funeral service, but of course since Afghani people have a very, very low perception of their government, it's not necessarily something they'd feel outraged about. But the fact they hit a funeral service hasn't really improved the image of the Taliban, but again it must be remembered it's not solely the Taliban in violence against the government and the ISAF, nor is it a uniform entity, many times tribal figures and warlords flip flopping on where they lie with respect to the government.

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After decades of the Taliban slaughtering their own countrymen (although granted many Taliban fighters are foreign, Arab extremists), the Afghan civilian population still is divided over who to back, the ISAF or the Taliban.
I'm not sure if you can call the majority of the fighters in Afghanistan 'foreign'. There are foreign elements, but they recruit heavily from villages in the country and such there they have loyalty and sympathy with their aims. Even among those that come out of the Haqqani Network and other groups that operate in the border region with Pakistan, they are by and large from Pashto peoples who are in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. It's very much a local face to the terrorist and warlord groups.

Coincidentally, this part of Afghanistan is where the Taliban was born during the chaotic years of the 1990s when the Mujaheddin groups began to fight one another, formed from people who were sick of these warlords and the violence they were causing. Of course few knew then that the Taliban would be such a group in the end, but it isn't as if the Taliban is the only one with dirty hands there. Many of the figures in the government have it too.

Quote:
The ISAF only has the majority of the civilian support in certain provinces, whereas the Taliban still retains it in others.
There's only so much ISAF can do though, what matters is if the existing Afghan government has any power outside Kabul. It's the same problem the Soviet Union had with the PDPA government, where much of the people's loyalties outside the capital lie more with tribal and local leaders as opposed to the central government and their functionaries. To make matters worse of course most of the clowns in the government were drawn from the Northern Alliance, most of which had held power in the 1990s before the Taliban's victory in the civil war. Most of them had pretty bad reputations as being self-serving and warlordish, rather than as being concerned for the government as a whole. It hasn't improved in their time in government again, if not worsened further.

You just look at the perceptions that came out during the last elections for the Wolesi Jirga (lower house of parliament) with a pathetic turnout and negative perception of the government as a whole, which they perceive as being a tight-knit club of Karzai's partners and allies working for themselves rather than the country, propped up by the ISAF.

Quote:
After a decade of building schools and infrastructure and we still don't have all the hearts and minds.
Again, depends on what you hold to that standard. There's not been much in the improvement of the lot of the people in the long run, most of the original social structures have been preserved by the mission there since most of the allies came from these warlord elements that rely on this system. Country is still by and large backwards despite these improvements you say have occurred, child labor persists (most children don't have much prospects, education as a result is restricted to primary, it's lucky if you see kids go to secondary in the villages), so they're not really seeing a solid benefit of the occupation beyond perpetuating the old problems that have plagued the country, just another phase in Afghanistan's internal struggles.

The Soviet Union and the PDPA actually argued a lot along these lines, and to their credit they did appear to do more than the current US mission in trying to modernize the country, grant equality to the ethnic groups, and breaking down the sex barriers that left many Afghani women oppressed. For example, in higher education, women were enrolled at such a level that they neared 50% even in medical schools, and they held meaningful positions in the government and civil society, not the token ones they get right now. Indeed there was more here to improve the lot of the people, with land reform to break apart the semi-feudal tribal system, the influence of clerics, essentially bring Afghanistan to speed.

A nice book about this period is called "Memories of Afghanistan" by Dr. M.H. Anwar (a 'liberal' figure in Afghanistan who served in the government during the Kingdom's brief attempt at reforms), who recalls during a visit to the new PDPA government,

Quote:
During the last week of my stay, I met and had short talks with some of the important leaders of the government, such as Shah Mohammad Dost, the foreign minister, Nur Ahmad Nur, Secretary of the Central Committee, Dr. Anahita Ratebzad and others. My impression was that, for the first time in Afghan history, dedicated, intelligent and hard-working leaders are serving the people and not themselves. They are determined to procure equal rights for women and various ethnic groups in the country. They are putting enormous effort into educating the youth. They are determined never to allow the country to slide back to the kingdoms of the barbaric past, the rule of mullahs, as in Iran or as the one-man dictatorship in Pakistan.

Female students at Kabul's Polytech Institute, 1981

As far as I can see it, they could probably to the fact that they genuine tried to modernize and improve the country, than the ISAF and their tribal allies can claim, which has perpetuated a deeply religious and a traditional tribal system where women have little rights and there is little hope for people outside the powerful tribal leaders and warlords for a decent life.

However, PDPA and the Soviets could only hold that up so much, when they were causing a lot of violence and death in the countrysides that made people quite despise the PDPA and their Soviet partners, despite telling them 'they' were improving their lot. Like the US with its tribal jokers, people saw the Soviets were in there for their own interests and the PDPA was relying on a foreign entity to exist. Plus, it all has a very "white man burden" and paternalistic tone to it, apologetics for colonialism in the past, etc., that simply could not ignore that in the end this was a military presence that tore apart the countryside under the pretext of fighting terrorists.

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Then something like this happens, and we'll lose all that support. They'll instantly forget all the good we've done, and all the bad the Taliban has done.
Again, I'm not sure what 'good' the mission has done there beyond removing the Taliban. I don't think the Afghani's are necessarily indebted to the ISAF, it was not like they rolled out the carpet and begged them to come in the first place. US came to strike at al Qaeda and the Taliban government for sheltering them.

What matters now here is how the US chooses to prosecute this case. For various reasons, populace has a perception that soldiers can 'get off easy' with these things, a perception that got solidified with the Haditha case in Iraq. To that end the US seems to have jumped onto damage control much more quickly and meaningfully than the Koran issue, because unlike previous 'collateral' deaths, this was a much more direct and sadistic act, and as such they need to resolve this quickly.

Even if this is resolved well and people move on, it'll still leave in my opinion a fundamental gap between the 'hearts and minds' of the locals and the ISAF, a very tense one that can explode at anytime. Can it be improved? I think the mission may have squandered the opportunity to form a meaningful relationship and impact in the years following the overthrow of the Taliban when people were grateful for the end of that government, only to see they got another corrupt and self-serving one from the Northern Alliance and getting caught up in violence between this government and rebels (again, another parallel with the Soviet mission).

Last edited by Commissar MercZ; March 13th, 2012 at 05:28 PM.
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Old March 14th, 2012   #8
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Default Re: Soldier goes on a rampage in Kandahar, kills 16

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta took a visit to Afghanistan as a part of the administration's attempts to diffuse the volatile situation. There was a security situation with an Afghan driving a car into the airstrip where the government plane was, though the car crashed. The anonymous Marine who is accused of the killings has been flown out of the country to a base in Kuwait.
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Old March 15th, 2012   #9
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Default Re: Soldier goes on a rampage in Kandahar, kills 16

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Originally Posted by MrFancypants View Post
I guess part of the problem is that we don't get to see the reactions of the people who were close to the victims. There is probably also a high chance that incidents like this or collateral damage from NATO bombs takes out entire families, so there aren't too many close ones left. Whatever outrage there is probably doesn't make it to the news here because the victims are often civilians, who will grieve but not go crazy about such incidents.
Radical Islamists, on the other hand, tend to get violent if they don't like something. If they kill people over cartoon depictions of Mohammed that is much more likely to hit the news.

Even so, I fear you may have a point. Not long ago I read about how it is a common practice in Afghanistan to sell daughters into slavery to settle disputes between families. Those people have a different culture and not all of it is pretty.


Apparently the soldier was apprehended. So maybe we will learn about his motivations at some point.

I wouldn't be surprised if some sort of Kurtz-like mentality was involved in this.
I concur, sadly each incident may only lead to someone else using it as either an excuse (or simply the last drop that makes them go mental) to take revenge with the other side...
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Old March 15th, 2012   #10
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Default Re: Soldier goes on a rampage in Kandahar, kills 16

We've gotten some info from the soldier's defense attorney and other sources regarding why the soldier may've done what he done. It would appear from there he had been under some stress over his fourth deployment that he was not expecting (nor was his family), since he had received injuries in his previous two tours in Iraq. His redeployment took him by surprise and added to problems in his family with his wife and others. The sources confirmed that the soldier was intoxicated with alcohol.

Naturally, the defense attorney also added that he is usually 'mild-mannered' and did not show signs of prejudice towards locals, and emphasizing that this is not in line with his actions.

Other news of interest in Afghanistan- President Karzai requests the US to remove their soldiers from villages to bases, and the Taliban halts their 'peace talks' and closes their Qatar offices (a thread about this in these forums earlier when they were opened).

Last edited by Commissar MercZ; March 15th, 2012 at 07:19 PM.
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