It wasn’t surprising that on Question Time recently the word Vietnam was thrown around so liberally when the question of Afghanistan came up in the wake of 6 young British soldiers dying in the fighting there. Now another massive tragedy, this time perpetrated by an American solider against unarmed Afghan civilians, threatens to destabilise the delicate process that NATO’s undertaking of winning over the Afghan hearts and minds….

This year hasn’t been going well already, with members of the occupying force accidentally incinerating copies of the Qur’an and sparking violent riots that claimed 30 lives, not to mention the inhuman leaked video of US troops urinating on dead Afghans. These are, of course, not an accurate depiction of the NATO forces based in Afghanistan but remember that the majority of the Afghan population has little or no access to mainstream media, most of these stories will have been spread by word of mouth and anyone who has ever known gossip knows how quickly its exaggerated.

…how did a soldier walk out of his base fully armed and not be seen?

In the early hours of the morning on Sunday a US soldier went into a village in the region of Kandahar and shot dead sixteen Afghans in their homes, nine of which were children. The soldier then walked back into his base and handed himself in, according to some reports he had “recently suffered a mental breakdown”. Questions are quickly being asked, simple questions that people are surprised they’ve even had to ask, eg. how did a soldier walk out of his base fully armed and not be seen? Even at 3am there surely must be some kind of security? And if the reports of him recently suffering a mental breakdown are true how was any of this possible?

Under normal circumstances the soldier would be court-martialed in an American military court but is this really appropriate? This isn’t some misdemeanour, like a joke that went wrong or a miscommunication, this was a man committing homicide. Though the military need to do their own internal investigation on how something like this could have happened, the soldier himself should be tried in an Afghan court, if the Americans have any respect for the sovereignty of the Afghan state then that has to happen, not to mention it may help their image for the occupying forces to distance themselves as much as possible from this man. If he is taken out of Afghanistan there will surely be repercussions from those who think some kind of retribution is in order.

…the way the Afghan court systems have been working is not something that should be supported…

But though the soldier should be tried in Afghanistan, he can’t be; any human rights activist will tell you that the way the Afghan court systems have been working is not something that should be supported or in any way legitimized. They are hot beds for fear-mongering and draconian punishment, not to mention the abhorrent way they have treated women.

Looking through the list of mistakes and how well thought out any next move by the US needs to be goes to show what a mess things are. The supposed date for troops withdrawing is 2014 but at this rate one wonders what state Afghanistan will be left in when that time comes. I still have little surprise that the word Vietnam is still being thrown around at any mention of Afghanistan.


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Grew up in the Middle East, currently studying Arabic and Linguistics in central London. Write a lot...

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