Two grieving Afghan men look at the body of a burned child killed by a U.S. soldier Sunday. (EPA/Via Daily Telegraph)
American officials are reeling after the shooting rampage by a U.S. soldier that left 16 Afghans dead, including several children, with many wondering whether the fallout will affect the timeline of international troop withdrawal in the region. The massacre occurred early Sunday in southern Afghanistan.
The latest shocking spout of violence threatened to further erode the already shaky confidence in the troubled peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, just as international forces hoped morale in the wake of the recent burning of Qurans at Bagram Air Force base was starting to pick up. The Quran debacle sparked weeks of protests and retribution killings by Afghan soldiers against foreign troops.
Defense analysts said that the horrific incident is certain to prompt consideration of accelerating the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan, currently slated to be completed by the end of 2014.
"It seems fairly clear that the U.S. is re-looking at the withdrawal timetable in light of several events," Nick Dowling, president of IDS International, a firm that advises U.S. agencies on Afghanistan, told Yahoo News by email Monday. "These incidents will likely lead to a faster but less dignified end to U.S. and ISAF operations in Afghanistan."
Britain's envoy called the incident "ghastly" and very distressing for all countries contributing troops in Afghanistan, but said he did not think it would fundamentally change the international coalition's strategy for Afghanistan.
"It's a terrible incident, women and children killed by a single gunman behaving in an inexplicable, irrational way," British Ambassador to the United States Peter Westmacott told journalists at a press briefing in Washington Monday. "It is terrible for the coalition when things like this happen. We have had too many of these."
"Does it alter the strategy?" Westmacott continued. "I don't believe it does. I think we remain determined to finish the job and leave Afghanistan in as good order as we can."More...Read More »from Will the Afghanistan massacre accelerate the timeframe for withdrawing international troops?