Fresh reports from Afghanistan point to a dangerous development: the Afghan riots over Quran burning are having a toll on American soldiers. Sunday’s massacre of 16 Afghan civilians is a sign that American soldiers are now taking matters into their own hands.
American soldiers are increasingly convinced their commanders have failed to protect them during the Quran riots. Some of the soldiers have concluded they have to take things into their own hands.
The incident on Sunday, March 11, near Kandahar is being seen as a case of American soldiers going out to avenge the killings of their colleagues at the hands of Afghan soldiers and police during the recent riots.
American soldiers are understandably panicked. The riots witnessed amazing incidents that were unthinkable only weeks ago. For the first time, Afghans from all sectarian and linguistic backgrounds are united in anti-US riots. There have been incidents like Afghan chefs poisoning the food of NATO soldiers. Other coalition soldiers, like the French, are angry to see their troops killed because of blunders by American soldiers, like peeing on dead Afghan bodies and then recording it on video.
But the single scariest development for US soldiers is that they no longer know where to expect the next bullet that would kill them. Now US-trained Afghan soldiers and policemen are killing American soldiers whenever and wherever they get a chance. It is no longer Afghan Taliban and other resistance groups that are the enemy.
The fact that US soldiers chose to kill Pashtun women and children in Kandahar is not accidental. This is happening because of irresponsible official American statements that blamed Pashtun Taliban ‘infiltrators’ for killing American military trainers. The truth is that Afghans from all backgrounds have participated in riots against occupying US army. The Afghan intelligence officer who killed a US Army colonel and major inside the secured interior ministry building in Kabul on Jan. 25 was not a Pashtun but a Tajik. Despite this, US officials blamed the Pashtuns to hide the fact that the US-trained Afghan army, which is largely non-Pashtun, is now turning its weapons on American trainers.
The prospect of US soldiers rebelling against their superiors is dangerous. In Pakistan, this should force policymakers in the federal government and the military to reconsider support for a US mission that is fast collapsing. Pakistani officials need to ask: Do we need to support those who have lost the trust and faith of the Afghans? This question is important because of mounting US pressure on the Pakistani government to reopen NATO supply routes. Pakistanis need to stand on the side of the Afghan people at this point in time and not place their bets on a faltering American military.