By Vladimir Gladkov
A US sergeant who killed 16 civilians in the Afghan province of Kandahar, has been transferred to Kuwait.
The Kandahar tragedy has created a serious problem for the US authorities. On the one hand, judging by the number of precedents, the US prefers to hush up the crimes committed by its servicemen in other countries. On the other, the wreath of the Afghan people is currently too strong for the US to leave the criminal unpunished. Failure to bring him to justice could lead to a complete break off in the relations between the US and Afghanistan, which would most likely make the situation in the whole Moslem world even more unstable.
The US authorities have already spent billons of dollars on attempts to bring stability to Afghanistan, but the country still remains one of world’s most unstable hotspots. In fact, if NATO’s control over Afghanistan weakens even slightly, the Taliban would most certainly come back to power.
The Taliban’s comeback to power is really very likely. Quite a large section of the Afghan population supports the Taliban. Anti-American sentiment is strong in Afghanistan. Initially, NATO planned to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2013. But in the present situation, this would mean leaving the country to the Taliban. The armed forces of Hamid Karzai’s government have already proved themselves to be too weak to be able to offer serious resistance to the Taliban.
The Taliban’s comeback to power would be the worst case scenario for Afghanistan. It would turn the country into the world’s largest hotbed of terrorism. But, unfortunately, this would also be the most likely scenario if NATO left Afghanistan now.
The US authorities claim that the criminal sergeant was apparently transmitted from Afghanistan because there isn’t a suitable prison for him in the whole Afghanistan. However, this explanation doesn’t seem to suit Afghans. They suspect that the criminal was really transmitted from Afghanistan to be allowed to escape punishment. They have even more reason to think so because the US has not yet announced any official charges against the sergeant.
Recently, a number of Afghan politicians demanded that President Karzai suspend any talks with the US before the sergeant is punished.
Last year, a similar case occurred in Pakistan. A CIA contractor, Raymond Davis, killed 2 Pakistani civilians – but in the end, he was, in fact, the Pakistani justice was ‘bought off’ by the US. But Davis only killed 2 civilians. Moreover, according to the version put forward by the investigators of this case, he might have killed them in self-defense. The US sergeant in Kandahar, whose name has not yet been revealed, cold-bloodedly killed 9 Afghan children and 7 adults, who, at the time, were asleep in their homes.
A report has appeared in the media that the murderer sergeant had once had a serious brain injury and suffered from some kind of mental disorder. But even if it really was the truth, this would hardly console the relatives of his victims. The fact that the sergeant’s commanders, knowing about his mental problems, still allowed him to serve in a hotspot like Afghanistan, speaks of their incompetence.
It would be wrong to say that before this incident, the relations between Afghans and the international military contingent in their country were ideal. Cases when US servicemen who patrolled Afghan cities and villages killed civilians for no particular reason were quite frequent. Besides, servicemen of the newly-formed Afghan army sometimes killed their US instructors.
However, the Kandahar tragedy took place against the background of tensions heated as never before. Several days prior to that, a group of Afghans incidentally witnessed a number of US servicemen burning several dozens of copies of the Koran. In response, the whole of Afghanistan become gripped by protests and incidents of violence.
After the Kandahar incident, there are serious grounds to doubt that the withdrawal of the NATO contingent from Afghanistan, something which Barack Obama and David Cameron have promised to do by the end of 2013, would be reasonable. Besides, President Karzai’s recent plans to start talks with the Taliban can also hardly be implemented now. At present, the Taliban refers Mr. Karzai as none other than ‘a US puppet’.
The evident worsening of the US-Afghan relations demands the staying of the NATO contingent in Afghanistan – but the majority of Afghans are strongly opposed to it. This means that they would most likely become more critical against Hamid Karzai’s regime for its “compromises with the US”. As a result, the popularity of the Taliban would grow.
It looks like the only thing the US can do now to ease the tension is to bring the killer sergeant to justice with the full force of the law. But the US doesn’t seem to like acknowledging its mistakes or apologizing for them.
Many people, both Americans and Afghans, might have been trying hard to bring peace to Afghanistan – but their efforts have been brought to naught in a flash by a crime committed by one insane sergeant. And troubles in Afghanistan could pose a serious threat for the whole world.