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The Killid Group

Panjwai killings should never have happened

Written by Killid
Sunday, 18 March 2012 09:30

Panjwai killings should never have happened Can we see the deliberate targeting of Afghan civilians as an inevitable result of a misguided policy?
A US soldier in Panjwai district, Kandahar, killed 16 defenceless civilians, mainly children and women. Predictably there has been an outpouring of anger and threats of revenge. There are calls for calm, but the situation is a tinderbox, and anything can spark a bloodbath.
The soldier who has turned himself in walked to Najiban and Alokzai villages on Mar. 12. Eyewitness reports say 11 of the dead were members of one family. As with all such cases there are rumours that the killing was the work of more than one US soldier. Villagers are insisting they heard helicopters. There is anger that while they cannot leave their villages after sun down, foreign troops have the freedom to go where they please. The two villages are very close to an installation jointly used by NATO/ISAF and Afghan forces.
Minister of Frontier Affairs and head of southern security affairs Asadullah Khaled visited the grieving survivors and promised a full investigation. Kandahar's representative in Parliament has called for President Hamid Karzai's resignation. The Afghan Parliament had cancelled its session in protest for one day with some MPs demanding that the killer be brought before an Afghan court.

Pinning responsibility
Western military and political officials have apologised but also called the incident "rogue" and "a first time". The independent Afghan Analysts Network (AAN), a partner of Killid, has challenged the premise. AAN's Thomas Ruttig in a blog wonders "whether it might be a freak, but somehow unavoidable outcome in a context of escalated violence, thinking in "friend-or-foe" categories, traumatisation - and a result of misguided policy…I, at least can't see any big difference between this incident and the operations of the 'kill team' which also deliberately shot civilians, at random, in Kandahar province, in 2010, manipulated their bodies so that they looked like 'legitimate targets' and even took body parts as war trophies. Those US soldiers were convicted of murder."
Ruttig like the villagers in Najiban and Alokzai asks how come the unidentified 38-year-old soldier was allowed to leave his base on his own with a gun, in the middle of the night and alone. He thinks this would be "even more significant" if the reports about the soldier's prior health problems turn out to be true. The soldier who returned to his base after the killings, and surrendered, was deployed to Afghanistan after three tours in Iraq, according to a report that has not been officially confirmed.

Trained to kill
"On the face of it, calling the Panjwai killings a 'rogue' incident sounds like a way to wash someone's hands of responsibility. This incident should simply not have happened at all," writes Ruttig.
The deliberate killing of civilians by men deployed "to ensure the safety of the Afghan population" as ISAF commander General John Allen explained after the incident is according to Ruttig  "symptom of a failed policy". "The soldier's superiors in the political sphere have sent soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan on impossible missions. Armies simply are not the right instruments for fulfilling tasks they have been called on to do in situations like in Afghanistan … from killing the enemy to physical reconstruction, from protecting infrastructure to institution-building," he writes.
Ruttig writes: "Will the Panjwai killings make negotiations about the US-Afghan strategic agreement more complicated? Certainly. But again that's not the main point - because both sides want it, Karzai because he knows that he will have difficulties in surviving on his own, the US to keep an eye on Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan from close by.
The killings make life for ordinary Afghans even more unbearable. After all, in 2001, they set their hopes on the international intervention changing their lives for the better - an end to the war (not an escalation) and the building up of their country. Now they see the narcotecture palaces of the warlords and the hummers of the warlords' sons on one side, and rising prices and no political alternative to the Taleban and the Karzai/warlords alliance on the other one. Whether the Western forces are friend or foe in this power-game, is getting increasingly unclear for them."

Comments (1)

  • Saturday, 07 April 2012 06:51 | ahmed
    As far as one can make out, Robert Bales who is now charged with murder in the US , is not *mad* . He is not *deranged*, not under *stress*. He managed to do what his superior had feared. In his article in The INDEPENDENT ( 17th March 2012 ) Robert Fisk says "-----general John Allen delivered a speech to his soldiers , after the Quran burning and killings : NOW IS NOT THE TIME FOR REVENGE" Fisk says : "----Now this was an extraordinary plea to come from the US commander in Afghanistan. The top general had to tell his supposedly well-disciplined, elite, professional army not to "take vengeance" on the Afghans they are supposed to be helping/protecting/nurturing/training, etc. He had to tell his soldiers not to commit murder. I know that generals would say this kind of thing in Vietnam. But Afghanistan? Has it come to this? I rather fear it has. Because – however much I dislike generals – I've met quite a number of them and, by and large, they have a pretty good idea of what's going on in the ranks. And I suspect that Allen had already been warned by his junior officers that his soldiers had been enraged by the killings that followed the Koran burnings – and might decide to go on a revenge spree. Hence he tried desperately – in a statement that was as shocking as it was revealing – to pre-empt exactly the massacre which took place last Sunday.---" So , after all, it is just a matter of ANGER and BLIND REVENGE . Who does this hurt ? It hurts the US and the Afghan people !!!!

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