MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Editorials

March 16, 2012

Time to cut losses, end Afghan war

Horror.

Wearing a NATO forces uniform, officials say a sniper-trained United States soldier moved through two Afghan villages, barged into homes and opened fire. He slaughtered 16 civilians, then burned some of the bodies. Nine of those killed were children.

War is hell, and this American was a demon raining fiery death on people sleeping in their homes.

We don’t know what motivated the atrocity, though we know Staff Sgt. Robert Bales had been seriously injured twice and his attorney says he was unhappy to have been deployed to Afghanistan.

A senior American official has said the suspect had been drinking that night. His lawyer also says that the day before the massacre the suspected shooter had been standing next to a comrade when his friend’s leg was blown off.

This event likely was one soldier losing it in a war zone, although Afghans suspect more than one service member was involved.

Missteps by the U.S., including the killings in Kandahar province Sunday and the mistaken burning of copies of the Koran at a NATO base recently, have further strained tense relations.

President Hamid Karzai has called for NATO troops to leave Afghan villages and confine themselves to major bases. He warned President Barack Obama on Friday that he’s at the “end of the rope” over civilian casualties.

All these events undercut Obama’s strategy for Afghanistan. They hamper efforts to train Afghan police and build stable local governance.

Will U.S. and NATO forces be able to accomplish much in the two years remaining before the scheduled troop withdrawal? Given deteriorating relations, it is doubtful.

We should consider cutting our losses. The situation is in a downward spiral.

The time to get out of Afghanistan is now.

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