The stress of a fourth consecutive combat deployment coupled with alcohol abuse and a troubled marriage may have driven a US soldier to kill 16 Afghan civilians. The soldier’s lawyer denies the claims, attributing the killing spree to combat trauma.
A senior US official speaking to the press on condition of anonymity said the causes were likely to be a “combination of stress, alcohol and domestic issues — he just snapped.”
US attorney John Henry Browne, defending the soldier, disregarded alcohol use and domestic problems as the root causes behind the incident. After speaking with the perpetrator’s family, Browne suggested that the soldier had been traumatized by seeing one of his comrade’s legs blown off in combat the previous day.
``His leg was blown off, and my client was standing next to him,'' the lawyer said.
Browne said the incident had affected all of the troops on the base, but it was not clear whether it had triggered the soldier’s violent outburst. The details of the incident are yet to be independently verified by the US military.
The soldier’s deployment to Afghanistan as part of a village stability operation was his fourth consecutive posting to the troubled country. It also reportedly came as a shock to his family.
“He and the rest of his brigade had initially been told they wouldn't have to go to Afghanistan,” stressed Browne.
During previous tours in Iraq, he had suffered a severe concussion in a roadside bomb and had to have part of his foot removed because of a combat-related injury. The lawyer also signaled that it was unclear whether his client had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of previous traumas but heralded its potential importance to the case.
The defendant had been screened Madigan Army Medical Center for his concussion and was approved for re-deployment in Afghanistan.
The soldier’s family was “totally shocked” by the incident given his “mild-mannered” character and were unaware that he suffered from any drinking problems describing his marriage as “fantastic”.
Mr. Brown has refused to disclose his client’s identity to protect his family. The US military has also refrained from releasing it.
The soldier is believed to have left the US military base in Kandahar early on Sunday before making his way to nearby villages. He allegedly entered civilian homes, killing nine children and seven others. It has also been reported that he burned some of the bodies before handing himself in to US authorities.
The 38-year-old Army staff sergeant was flown out of Afghanistan on Wednesday, inciting widespread protests amid public calls for him to be publicly tried in Afghanistan. He has been relocated to a military base in Kuwait for the time being.
An American official speaking on condition of anonymity said that the soldier could be transferred to a US military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas as early as Friday.
In response to the massacre Afghan PM Hamid Karzai called for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghan villages, while the Taliban issued a statement declaring the suspension of all talks with American forces.The official withdrawal of all foreign forces from the war-torn country is scheduled for 2014.