The war in Afghanistan took a horrific turn recently when a U.S. soldier killed 16 Afghan civilians, including nine civilians. Suspected in the killings is Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, based at Washington state's Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
While Bales has not been convicted of anything, the information coming out paints him as a warrior pushed to the breaking point. The accused soldier's attorney, John Henry Browne, said his client suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by injuries and multiple combat deployments.
Bales has been deployed three times to Iraq and once in Afghanistan. He is a decorated soldier, he had lost part of a foot in combat in Iraq, and had suffered a head injury during another Iraq tour.
Browne said his client did not want to go to Afghanistan nor did he expect to be deployed to Afghanistan because of his injuries and three tours in Iraq.
The shooting of 16 civilians in a rampage and then burning some of their bodies is deplorable and an atrocity.
The details of the incident are shameful and cast the United States in a very bad light. Such behavior is simply unacceptable from a U.S. soldiers regardless of the circumstances of a fourth deployment into a war zone.
And it serves to illustrate the need for the United States to end the war in Afghanistan and bring all the troops home. Incidents such as the killing of the 16 civilians, the inadvertent burning of Muslim holy books and the report of Marines urinating on Taliban corpses only fuel animosity toward the U.S. military personnel who occupy the country.
A little over a week ago we urged President Obama to speed withdrawal of the troops because of the enormous cost in terms of lives and dollars. The U.S. is spending $10 billion waging war in Afghanistan.
The need is more urgent now.
Whether U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan for another week or another decade, the situation will not be stable. The Afghan people, like the Iraqis, want to control their own country and they don't want Americans there. That feeling has grown in the past week.
The U.S. should hasten plans to transition total control of Afghanistan to the Afghan people and get out.