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Kandahar butchery: Afghans demand local justice over civilians' massacre

Published time: March 12, 2012 09:30
Edited time: March 13, 2012 08:38

Afghan National Army soldiers keep watch as Afghans gather outside a U.S. base in Panjwai district Kandahar province, March 11, 2012 (Reuters / Ahmad Nadeem)

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Afghanistan’s parliament has condemned the killing of 16 civilians by an American sergeant on Sunday. It demands a public trial, saying Afghans have run out of patience with how the NATO-led coalition forces are acting in the country.

­The demand for a trial by an Afghan court goes against the usual practice for American military personnel serving abroad. They are immune from prosecution by local authorities and are instead tried by American military tribunals.

But Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson, spokesperson for the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, promised on Monday that the Afghan people would receive justice.

The presence of the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) in Afghanistan has been a public relations nightmare lately, with a number of scandals erupting involving foreign soldiers over recent months.

In late February the burning of Korans and other holy Muslim scriptures at the US Bagram Air Base provoked mass rioting in the country. What was called an “inadvertent” act by the US resulted in some 40 deaths and hundreds of injured, as angry crowds demanded retribution for the desecration.

Earlier the same month a photo of a US Marine scout sniper team surfaced on the internet, provoking a scandal. The marines were posing in front of flag bearing an insignia of the SS, or Schutzstaffel, the military wing of the German Nazi Party. According to explanations, the soldiers did not realize the historical meaning of the double lightning bolt and meant it to represent “scout snipers”.

In mid-January, a video showing US Marines urinating on corpses of slain Afghans, presumably Taliban fighters, circulated on YouTube caused outrage worldwide. In at least one incident the video provoked violent retribution, when an Afghan soldier opened fire at French troops, who were part of the ISAF, killing four and wounding eight people.

Over the previous years, the ISAF troops have been engaged in sport-killing of Afghans and mistakenly killing hundreds of civilians in poorly-targeted air strikes, among other things. The war is increasingly unpopular back home, while the level of trust from Afghan population remains low.

The NATO-led coalition is now preparing for withdrawal of most its troops from Afghanistan after a decade of occupation. Apparently the invaders have failed to build a strong and self-reliant state capable of dealing with the insurgents on its own. Washington is currently in talks with the Taliban, reportedly attempting to secure safe passage out for its troops.

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