By now you’ve heard about the US soldier arrested for a shooting rampage in Kandahar, Afghanistan, which killed 16 people, including several women and children and a man shot in the face as he looked out the window. There’s a substantial amount of confusion over whether the soldier acted alone or whether he was part of a drunken gang in a night raid that turned into a murder spree.
The President has delivered condolences, both in a public statement and in a private call to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. But these may ring hollow to an Afghan public weary of war and occupation. The biggest near-term consequence is a delay to the strategic partnership agreement with the Afghans, which appeared on track after a Friday agreement on transferring prisoners from Bagram Air Base into Afghan custody.
Just days before Sunday’s attack, Kabul and Washington had made significant progress in negotiations on a Strategic Partnership Agreement that would allow American advisers and special forces to stay in Afghanistan after foreign combat troops leave at the end of 2014.
But securing a full deal may be far more difficult now after the shooting spree in villages in the southern province of Kandahar, the Taliban heartland, which killed mostly women and children.
“This could delay the signing of the Strategic Partnership Agreement,” an Afghan government official told Reuters.
The attack, the latest American public relations disaster in Afghanistan, may be a turning point for the United States in a costly and unpopular war now in its eleventh year [...]
“The Americans are not here to assist us they are here to kill us,” said Najibullah, 33, a house painter in Kabul.
“I hate the Americans and I hate anyone who loves them, so I hope there is no long-term partnership between our countries.”
I actually disagree with the idea that this attack represents a turning point. Maybe historians will read it that way after the US withdraws. But the truth is that the policy reality dictated a withdrawal a long time ago. We have no strategic value in continuing to occupy Afghanistan, in support of a corrupt government that has no legitimacy in the countryside. And the American public actually knows this.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll out over the weekend shows public dissatisfaction with the war. It shows that 60% believe the war has not been worth fighting. It shows that only 30% believe the Afghan public supports our mission and our presence. And it shows that 54% think the US should withdrawal regardless of the training mission for Afghan security.
And this survey was completed BEFORE yesterday’s incident.
The survey was completed Saturday. Early Sunday a U.S. service member allegedly left his base in Kandahar and shot and killed more than a dozen civilians in two nearby villages, an incident certain to raise tensions already inflamed by the U.S. military’s inadvertent burning of Muslim holy books at Bagram Air Base last month. That incident sparked violent protests, including a series of incidents in which Afghan soldiers have turned their guns on U.S. forces.
More here. Maybe history will paint this rampage as a Black Hawk Down moment. But the public was already there well before this, well ahead of all the politicians.