T Nation

Rogue US Soldier Accused of Killing 16 Civilians


Very sad. Didn't see it posted in GAL or here ... apologies if duplicate. Story below.

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- An American soldier went on a house-to-house shooting spree in two villages in southern Afghanistan early Sunday, Afghan officials said, killing 16 people in what Afghanistan's president called an "unforgivable" crime.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force said the soldier acted alone and turned himself in after opening fire on civilians. U.S. President Barack Obama called the killings "tragic and shocking," and offered his condolences to the Afghan people in a phone call to his counterpart in Kabul, Hamid Karzai, the White House said.

But the attack is likely to further more anger at international forces following deadly riots over the burning of Qurans by U.S. troops.

"The Afghan people can withstand a lot of pain," Prince Ali Seraj, the head of the National Coalition for Dialogue with the Tribes of Afghanistan, told CNN. "They can withstand collateral damage. They can withstand night raids. But murder is something that they totally abhor, and when that happens, they really want justice."

In a statement issued by his office, Karzai said the killings took place in the district of Panjwai, about 25 km (15 miles) southwest of Kandahar, southern Afghanistan's major city. Haji Agha Lali, a member of the provincial council, told CNN the soldier had attacked four houses in the villages of Alokozai and Barakzai.
Map: AfghanistanMap: Afghanistan
Ali Seraj: U.S. can't white-wash murder

"We call this an intentional act," Karzai said. He said the dead included four men, three women and nine children, calling the killings "acts of terror and unforgivable." His statement said another five people were wounded.

Capt. Justin Brockhoff, an ISAF spokesman, said the wounded Afghans were being treated in ISAF facilities. The allied command did not give its own estimate of casualties.

Brockhoff said officials do not yet have a motive for the shooting, which is under investigation by both NATO and Afghan officials. And Maj. Jason Waggoner, another ISAF spokesman, said the soldier "was acting on his own."

There were no military operations in the area, either on the ground or in the air, at the time, according to two senior ISAF officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. They said only one soldier, an Army staff sergeant, is believed to have been involved.

A third ISAF official said Afghan troops spotted the soldier leaving his combat outpost around 3 a.m. Sunday and notified their American counterparts. The U.S. military did an immediate headcount, found the soldier was missing and dispatched a patrol to go look for him, the official said.

The patrol met him as he returned and took him into custody. He said nothing, and it was unclear whether they knew what had happened, the official said.

The news brought a wave of condemnations from top American officials. In a statement issued by the White House, Obama said the U.S. military will "get the facts as quickly as possible and to hold accountable anyone responsible."

White House response to shooting spree

"I am deeply saddened by the reported killing and wounding of Afghan civilians. I offer my condolences to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives, and to the people of Afghanistan, who have endured too much violence and suffering," Obama said. "This incident is tragic and shocking, and does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan."

In a separate statement, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he was "shocked and saddened" by the attack and said the suspect was "clearly acting outside his chain of command."

Gen. John Allen, the NATO commander, said the "deeply appalling incident in no way represents the values of ISAF and coalition troops or the abiding respect we feel for the Afghan people." And acting U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham said his country was "saddened by this violent act against our Afghan friends."

"We deplore any attack by a member of the U.S. Armed Forces against innocent civilians," he said in a video statement, assuring "the people of Afghanistan that the individual or individuals responsible for this terrible act will be identified and brought to justice."

But Seraj, a member of Afghanistan's former royal family, said the killings are likely to play into the hands of the Taliban, the Islamic fundamentalist movement that has battled the U.S.-led coalition for a decade.

"They are really going to milk this for all it's worth," Seraj said, adding, "This is playing right into their program of psychological warfare against the Afghan people."

The Taliban has already said that the deaths were the result of a night raid by several soldiers and put the death toll at 50, but it regularly exaggerates casualty figures.

Seraj called for a joint U.S.-Afghan investigation into the killings, saying Afghans will want to see "quick and decisive justice."

"We cannot whitewash this and get this young man out of Afghanistan and send him back to the Untied States. That is the worst thing we can do at this time," he said. And he questioned how the soldier left his post in the pre-dawn hours, adding, "I know the Kandahar base. A fly cannot get in without being searched."

Kandahar and the surrounding region is the home of the Taliban, and eight of the 69 coalition troops killed in Afghanistan so far this year died in the province.

Taliban link attack to Quran burning

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001, following al Qaeda's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington that killed nearly 3,000 people. The invasion quickly toppled the Taliban, which ruled most of Afghanistan and had allowed al Qaeda to operate from its territory. But the militia soon regrouped and launched an insurgent campaign against the allied forces and a new government led by Karzai.

The No. 1 U.S. target in the conflict, al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, was killed in a commando raid in neighboring Pakistan in May 2011. American and allied combat troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by 2014, and Karzai has been increasingly critical of the allied force.

Tensions ramped up dramatically in February, after a group of U.S. soldiers burned copies of the Quran, Islam's holy book, that had been seized from inmates at the American-run prison at Bagram Air Base. American officials from Obama down called the burning an accident and apologized for it, but riots left dozens dead, including six American troops. Hundreds more Afghans were wounded.

The war has cost the lives of nearly 1,900 Americans and just under 1,000 more allied troops to date.


Just a horrible thing. And more will die because of this.


Yeah - the last thing this situation needs is even more mistrust, paranoia and alienation between the different parties.

Those civilians will become fertile ground for recruitment ...

One eye-witness alleged that he saw more than one soldier. I'm hoping that it was just one guy, rather than multiple.


Great. What's our best option for response at this point? Do we investigate, hand him over to the Afghans? Or do we investigate, but keep him as a US soldier on base and carry out our own justice as per US mil code?

Great. That's all we need. No matter how decisively this situation is handled as soon as that report is given any credence whatsoever it will be milked into a conspiracy theory that we can't win, and will push recruitment even further up, even if we were to hand that one asshole soldier over to the Afghans for their justice rather than US military code punishment. It's a no win.


Yeah, situations like these are fucked, and nasty for all involved. No-win sounds about right (certainly in the short term) and probably in the longer too.



Yeah, they'll totally buy that....brain injury made him do it. I'm sure the villagers know exactly what brain hemhorrages can do during trauma...

No chance in hell. It might even be true, but there's no way that we can roll with that story and have any hope at all of repairing the situation.


I agree, no way this will fly even if completely true.

Also no way we turn the soldier over to them tho, which is being called for...

Such a bad situation. Any thoughts on how it plays out?


Execution, they're talking about it.


Which is "they're," America or Afghan? Any chance they hand him over?


Obama. Shit, they better not hand him over that would be real fucked up.


100% They would NEVER hand him over.


Well, I am sure the Afghans will get some Americans, handed over or not.

There is no way that this goes unanswered, they even have their own form of collectivism tribalism.

If all Muslims are terrorists, all Americans are baby killers, fair is fair, is it not?


The Taliban will likely retaliate by killing more Afghan civilians, and I'm sure they won't appreciate the irony.


All that is left of them?

Those fifty guys are hardly the problem, the few million guys that think in terms of blood feuds and respect at best the Quran and their tribal elders (on a good day) might be.


I think it's stupid. I feel like a lot of people are trying to have this portrayed as a civilian trial should be portrayed. Wrong, we're still at war. This guy is technically still innocent until proven guilty. Everybody is acting like this guy really stirred the shit storm pot on this one. Not really, Oh look they're killing each other and us again...what's new? These "rioters and protesters" are most likely Taliban.


Yeah, they are all Taliban.

Who just happen to paint you with the exact same broad brush.

Murderers, all of you.


LOL! Ok, what do you call a bunch of Afghani's adhering to a strict Muslim law, killing people?

I'm sure they would make a great neighbor.


Probably not.

Which is a problem the Iranians and Pakistanis seemed to have on a back burner until someone decided to shoulder the white mans burden.

Because, they might be a lot of things, but US neighbors they never were.


What? Really?

Ok, so a small contingent was killing us and them before. Now that contingent gets massive recruiting power from a PR dream that this asshole handed them for use with their extremist views.

The real damage of this event isn't in the body count, even though that is tragic. The real damage is in the "public perception" realm with which we were FINALLY making some progress with in Afghanistan. By and large we had political support and even some of the civilians understood why we were there even if they didn't like it. That's the damage--the politics and long-term outlook is fucked. It's a political catch 22.

It's not the short term KILLING or violence it's the long term recruitment and mentality/hostility that is going to be the big problem.