Yesterday – the day after President Obama claimed credit for “calming things down” in Afghanistan with his letter of apology for the Koran burnings – two more U.S. troops were murdered by Afghan soldiers, opening fire from a guard tower at a base in Kandahar. The Wall Street Journal has the awful details:
American officials said that an Afghan soldier and an Afghan instructor working at the base opened fire from a guard tower.
The civilian, an Afghan teaching members of the Afghan National Army to read and write, grabbed a gun from an Afghan soldier in the tower and started shooting at U.S. troops from the tower, said Niaz Mohammad Sarhadi, governor of Zhari district, where the shooting occurred. Two U.S. service members were killed and a third was wounded.
Both Afghans were killed in an ensuing shootout. Another Afghan soldier who was on the tower at the time has been detained.
Authorities are not certain if these cretins were acting under Taliban orders, but one of them was a member of the Afghan military, and the other was a government contractor. They weren’t insurgents wearing stolen uniforms. Evidently another Afghan soldier is being questioned for his actions at the time of the attack. An ABC News report portrays the third man as a fully invested member of the hit squad, relaying word from a NATO official that the trio “briefly escaped after the attack but were run down by a quick reaction force that included a helicopter.”
By the way, ABC says the reason that literacy-teacher-cum-murderer was on the base is that recruits to the Afghan security forces have a 14 to 18 percent literacy rate. They’re rioting and killing over the burning of books they can’t read.
No word on whether Obama has demanded an apology from Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai for the actions of his troops.
As the Journal notes, Karzai would have a lot to apologize for, because this sort of backstabbing has been steadily on the rise all year, even before the Koran-burning incident at Bagram Air Base:
In an alarming jump in what the military coalition calls “green-on-blue” attacks, one of every four coalition-troop deaths caused by hostile action this year has been at the hands of Afghan security forces.
“We can no longer say it is a rare danger,” said Douglas Ollivant, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation who served until last year as counterinsurgency adviser to the U.S.-led military in Afghanistan. “It threatens the strategy on two fronts: ability to have sufficient trust to partner and mentor, on both sides; and domestic political support.”
The Most Transparent Administration In History is still openly refusing to release the text of Obama’s apology letter to Karzai, but according to the Afghan government, Obama wrote of the Koran-burnings: “The error was inadvertent; I assure you that we will take the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible.” It would be lovely if Karzai would return those same sentiments about the deliberate murder of American soldiers, and the miserable failures of Afghan military security that have given so many assassins a clean shot at the backs of American troops. Any chance Obama will demand such an apology?
Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton appeared on Greta Van Susteren’s Fox News show Thursday night, and said “I don’t think that any realistic observer could believe that an apology – and indeed, not just one apology, but repeated apologies by senior American officials – indicates to the Afghans anything but weakness, that it’s an admission of guilt. The whole way this has been conducted, I think, has made the situation far worse.”
Bolton went on to describe the deadly riots, held in response to “the burning of a book,” as “medieval” examples of “religious fanaticism,” and “reflective of the Taliban’s ability to exploit the incident.” He described this concession of strategic advantage to the Taliban as Obama’s real mistake. “Apologies? He apologizes to everybody. That’s not a critique,” Bolton observed. “The real critique is that he has no strategic sense, no objectives to protect America from a return to the risk of terrorism under the Taliban.”
It seems odd that no one in the Administration appears to be thinking about how the current “balance of apology” looks to the medieval mind. Obama immediately offered an unqualified apology after the religious materials were burned at Bagram, and promised to hold somebody accountable. There was no immediate attempt to defend the action, on the grounds that insurgents had already defiled those books. The subsequent murders of American troops, and bloody riots that have killed an even larger number of Afghans, have been treated as roughly equivalent acts of misfortune… with the difference that the Afghan executive isn’t declaring its intention to hold anyone responsible, or apologizing to the American executive. Why does anyone look at the Afghan population and imagine they’re hearing all this while listening to NPR during their morning commute and sipping a latte?
Instead of trying to pull out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible, Bolton said proper American strategic objectives would involve ensuring the Taliban does not return to power, and like-minded fanatics don’t gain control of Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal. Once they’ve got nuclear weapons, their response to the next “inadvertent” book-burning might be even more spectacular.