U.S. and Afghan officials say an American soldier went on a shooting spree, killing at least 16 villagers, including children, in Panjwai district in southern Afghanistan
Residents describe being terrified, saying the soldier walked seemingly methodically from door-to-door before breaking in and killing people in three homes.
The suspect, an Army sergeant who has also served in Iraq, is in custody, and U.S. and NATO officials have pledged full cooperation with Afghan authorities on the investigation.
The BBC’s Bilal Sarwari told Here and Now’s Robin Young, “The incident puts Afghan President Karzai in a very difficult position, because it happened in the region that is both the birth place of the Taliban and Karzai’s home province, and it's [sic] been difficult for the President to explain what happened to tribal elders."
A Failure To Protect Civilians
Sarwari says the region had been regained from the Taliban with American blood and treasure, and aides to the Afghan President admitted that this incident makes their job, and NATO’s job of winning hearts and minds much more difficult, because “we have failed to protect” people who had returned to the area after the fighting.
Panjwai district is a traditional stronghold of the Taliban and the group is promising revenge for what it calls, “blood soaked, inhumane crimes.” The attack comes just two days after NATO helicopters killed four civilians while searching for Taliban insurgents in another part of Afghanistan.
And last month, American soldiers burned copies of the Quran at Bagram Air Base. A U.S. investigation found that the burning was accidental, but it still led to anti-American protests and violence that took the lives of American servicemen.
At stake is the Obama administration’s plan for an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan which includes a solid working relationship between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
- Bilal Sarwari, reporter for the BBC
This segment aired on March 12, 2012.
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