Afghans Vow Vengeance After Massacre of Civilians

The unprovoked murder of 16 civilians may derail recent moves towards peace negotiations with the Taliban

Outraged Afghans have vowed vengeance after an American soldier murdered at least 16 civilians, including nine children, in a killing spree over the weekend that President Hamid Karzai said “cannot be forgiven.”

Nazim Shah was traveling to Kandahar when the massacre happened, but returned to find his entire family killed. Crying into the phone, he told The Independent: “All my family is dead … We will get revenge on those who killed my family. We won’t let this rest easily.”

U.S. and Afghan officials have braced themselves for revenge attacks from insurgents and possibly another breakout of widespread protests after those that erupted in response to the burning of Muslim holy books last month.

The shooter, now in NATO custody and as yet unnamed, entered civilian homes in Panjwai district unprovoked and killed women, elderly men, and children, one of whom was just two years old. Some of the children’s’ bodies he took and burned before the eyes of family members.

U.S. officials have claimed that the soldier “had a traumatic brain injury at one point” and “had problems at home after his last deployment.” Such sympathetic inquiries are rarely afforded to insurgents who kill NATO soldiers, though it is known that many Afghans have taken up arms in response to their families being slaughtered in the aimless U.S. war.

The massacre would be little more than a public relations mishap for the Obama administration, but it comes at an especially sensitive time. The Taliban had begun to show signs of cooperating with the desperate Obama administration by engaging in peace talks, mapping out power-sharing agreements for after the U.S. draws down occupation forces, and agreeing to prisoner swap deal in which Taliban detainees would be transferred to a Qatari prison and given a chance to have a trial. But this ugly incident may have spoiled those overtures.

A long string of failures and war crimes in Afghanistan has led the Obama administration to an apparent dead-end, as even Republican presidential candidates tried to capitalize on the public discontent for the war by hinting at giving up. Wars typically start for the wrong reasons, so perhaps it’s no surprise they might end for the wrong reasons as well.

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Author: John Glaser

John Glaser writes for Antiwar.com.