A massacre in the middle of the night, Afghan civilians slaughtered as they slept, an American soldier the lone suspect. U.S. officials struggled to make sense of those stark facts today, as Afghans demanded justice.
Afghan soldiers are on alert in Kandahar, stepping up security to prevent revenge attacks. Anti-American rage was boiling after a U.S. soldier allegedly shot and killed 16 Afghans in their homes, nine of them children.
The alleged solider was identified as a 38-year-old staff sergeant from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State who had served three tours in Iraq. His name was withheld until charges are filed.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials condemned the attack. At the U.N. today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the shootings inexplicable.
President Obama called the shootings heartbreaking, but he said he's still proud generally of what U.S. forces have achieved in Afghanistan. He had telephoned Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday, offering condolences, but Karzai in turn called the shootings "an assassination that cannot be forgiven."
Afghan anger was palpable on the streets of Kandahar and the Taliban today vowed revenge for what it called an inhumane crime. Tensions were already high over the burning of Qurans by U.S. troops last month. That led to a week of deadly protests and the killing of half-a-dozen American troops by Afghan soldiers. A month earlier, a video emerged apparently showing four U.S. Marines urinating on Taliban corpses.
Even so, White House officials insisted today these latest killings would not change the mission in Afghanistan and wouldn't force an early withdrawal.
"It does signal, though, the importance of us transitioning in accordance with my plan, so that Afghans are taking more of the lead for their own security and we can start getting our troops home." President Barack Obama
"A full investigation is under way. A suspect is in custody, and we will hold anyone found responsible fully accountable.
This terrible incident does not change our steadfast dedication to protecting the Afghan people and to doing everything we can to help build a strong and stable Afghanistan." Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
1. Name 3 countries that boarder Afghanistan.
2. Why are tensions high between the U.S. and Afghanistan?
2. How long have U.S. and NATO troops been in Afghanistan?
1. If you were President Obama, how would you handle this situation?
2. What strategies do you think the U.S. should use to improve relations with the Afghan people?
3. What should the consequences be for the soldier suspected of committing this crime?