It seemed that the disturbing news spread like wildfire once the initial reports surfaced. While the investigation continues this week, the reports indicate that a U.S. soldier left his military compound in Afghanistan and opened fire on villagers in the surrounding area. In the end, he reportedly killed least 16 people and wounded several others.
The attack comes after days of violence in the war-torn country carried out by the Afghan people triggered by the unintentional burning of Muslim holy books by U.S. forces. Several of those earlier attacks were reportedly instigated by Afghan security forces, who turned their weapons against U.S. military members at their respective bases.
Several members of the U.S. armed forces died in these earlier assaults.
This week, the Taliban ramped up their threats by vowing to conduct more violence against U.S. forces in the region in retaliation for this latest incident. Meanwhile, American military leaders in Afghanistan continue to investigate the facts surrounding the case, which will likely establish a motive behind the shootings.
After nearly 12 years of non-stop combat involving U.S. forces in the Middle East region, incidents like the one involving the U.S. soldier are rare compared to the immeasurable cruelty inflicted upon innocent men, women and children by the Taliban.
Occasional news reports from the region detailed the horrifying tactics this group of fanatics have used as a way to assert their authority there. Their barbaric and seemingly senseless behavior has become generally expected by those who've covered this war for so long.
Unlike our American combat warriors, the Taliban don't hold allegiances to any specific government. In addition, they don't wear uniforms or specific markings designating them as legal combatants, making it extremely challenging to engage these terrorists.
In addition, members of the Taliban don't follow any system of rules dictating their role in combat. They will use any weapon at their disposal, including car bombs and suicide bombers, and exploit any weakness they can find as long as it gives them a tactical advantage.
Anyone who dies in the subsequent violence is, from the Taliban's perspective, an acceptable loss. Their goal is to create chaos and inflict terror among the civilian population in this part of the world.
They want to instill total obedience of the Afghan people to their ways, regardless of the cost in human life and misery.
In comparison, U.S. forces are held to a much higher standard in terms of discipline and ethics. They're required to adhere to the Law of Armed Conflict, which outlines specific rules of engagement anytime our troops engage in combat.
Typically, the Law of Armed Conflict, or LOAC, errs to the side of caution and tremendous restraint whenever a question arises on whether someone is a legal, armed combatant or which places are legitimate targets. In most cases, it prevents senseless tragedies that have once again come to the forefront of media headlines.
Unfortunately, incidents involving U.S. forces can happen in an active combat zone.
Perhaps this is why this latest incident has gained so much attention so quickly. Simply put, U.S. forces are supposed to represent the "good guys" while the Taliban are expected to be the "bad guys" -- the evil we're expected to fight.
Here's another problem compounding the issue. Elements of the Afghanistan government -- and the American public as well -- have already passed judgement on this individual before the investigation ended. Sadly, this will do nothing more than incite more hatred and distrust in a country that for decades has seen its fair share of blood and shattered hope.
At a minimum, let this individual have his day in court before passing judgement. He at least deserves that much from a country that has asked so much from him.
-- Brian S. Orban