Shooting spree hastens decline to win over Afghans
(Associated Press) --
The massacre of 16 Afghan civilians was a dagger to the U.S.-led coalition's hearts and minds campaign, which was already in decline after 10 years of war.
Coalition forces will still help bolster the Afghan government and security forces in coming years, but Afghans increasingly believe America's only mission is to leave as soon as it can.
Even President Hamid Karzai, the long-standing U.S. partner in Afghanistan, has turned toxic. He told the U.S. to pull its troops out of Afghan villages and said it's fine with him if international forces wrap up their combat mission early.
Afghans already were worried about what will happen when international troops hand over the lead combat role to Afghan forces next year. Then, a rapid-fire succession of events shattered their trust in America, hastening an end to the effort to win over the Afghan population.
In January, a video purportedly showing American Marines laughing and urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters surfaced on the Web. In February, Muslim holy books were burned at a U.S. base north of Kabul in what President Barack Obama said was a terrible mistake. A week ago, a U.S. soldier allegedly went on a shooting rampage in two villages in Kandahar province, killing nine children, four men and three women and burning some of their bodies...
The recent events have further complicated efforts to negotiate a U.S.-Afghanistan partnership document that will outline America's presence in the country after 2014.
"They do not respect women, children, the clerics. They don't respect the culture of the Afghans," said Nasurullah Sadiqizada, an Afghan lawmaker from Day Kundi province in central Afghanistan. "Is it good for Afghanistan to sign a strategic partnership with these kinds of things happening to our people?"
Nick Whitney, former head of the European Union's European Defense Agency, said that incidents such as the shootings and the burning the Qurans undermine any pretense that NATO is in Afghanistan because it wants to help the population.
"These incidents just underline the fact that the game is up for NATO," said Whitney, a senior policy fellow at the Paris-based European Council on Foreign Relations. "It's been a lost cause for a number of years. In their heart of hearts, elites across Europe have know this for a long time."
Faith in the U.S. has broken down so much, that residents _ especially in the south _ have started believing that American troops are looking for excuses to leave before the end of 2014.
"Living during the NATO war against the Taliban has already been hard," said Abdul Qayum Khan, who runs a store that sells refrigerators and home electronics in Kandahar. "Now, knowing that Americans are finding ways to make their run and leave us in chaos, it is worse.
"Government officials are already shifting their families abroad and settling there, which shows that they already know what's about to come. It's getting dangerous out here and we can sense it too."...MORE...LINK