One of the most horrific episodes of misconduct by the U.S. military occurred this past weekend with the shocking news that an Army Staff Sergeant allegedly massacred 16 Afghan civilians, including three women and nine children. This comes at a time when the United States government is still reeling from its other faux pas when five soldiers were involved in the accidental burning of Korans and the infamous urinating Marines You Tube incident.
In this latest event, a soldier from Washington state was said to have acted alone when he left his base in the Kandahar province of southern Afghanistan just before dawn and opened fire on sleeping families. Following the shooting, the soldier allegedly returned to the base and turned himself in. While news is still coming out of Afghanistan about the identity the Army Staff Sergeant and what his motives were, this is clear – American military forces in Afghanistan are now at a far greater risk of vicious retaliation in the war torn country from not only Taliban insurgents but civilians and Afghan soldiers who seek their own form of redemption and justice.
As of this writing, over 1900 American soldiers and tens of thousands of Afghani citizens have been killed in a war the United States entered in October 2001. One of the primary reasons why our government chose to invoke war upon an impoverished country was to go after Osama Bin Laden and eliminate al Qaeda. Granted there still remains a strong Taliban presence in Afghanistan but Bin Laden was killed 10 months ago in Pakistan and much of the al Qaeda hierarchy has now been eliminated.
There remains the moral argument to continue to furnish aid to Afghan citizens and its military to become self sufficient while stemming the tide of the Taliban insurgency. But the ongoing war is likely to be as unpopular as it’s ever been amongst the American public with a recent poll showing approximately 60% of Americans criticizing our continued involvement in the Middle East and 54% now favor the abandoning the mission. This poll was taken before the rogue soldier took it upon himself to conduct a mass murder of innocent civilians and the public perception to remove our troops might be much higher now.
In response to the killing, President Obama contacted Afghan President Hamid Karzai to express his condolences, and expressed his condemnation of the senseless attack. He also correctly points out that this one isolated incident “doesn’t represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect the United States has for the people of Afghanistan”. Still the anti-American sentiment and lack of trust in America are bound to be at its all time worst. To complicate matters, many Americans will criticize our President for making yet another apology to the Afghan President and instead should be demanding that Hamid Karzai apologize to the United States for the deaths of many American soldiers from atrocities of his own military.
Even before this latest incident, President Obama was contemplating an early withdrawal of troops. Perhaps it’s now time to ponder that move more closely and a decision now shouldn’t matter whether or not it’s an election year. I expect the President to make an announcement to the American public in the next few days, not to announce a decision to leave at an earlier date than 2014 but to reaffirm our country’s commitment to the citizens of Afghanistan. However I think many Americans would prefer that, in conjunction with acknowledgement of the tragedy, Present Obama also announces that there will be an expeditious withdrawal of all American and NATO troops before the end of this year if not sooner.
Personally, I think the time is now to bring our troops home and not shed any more blood in Afghanistan. If any one can think of a reason why we still need to remain in Afghanistan while keeping our brothers and sisters in harm’s way, please let me know but I assure you, I can’t think of a practical reason to stay.