Soldier Suspected in Afghan Killings Knew War’s Tensions From Four Tours
The U.S. Army staff sergeant suspected in the killings of at least 16 Afghan civilians had experienced the stress of war from four combat tours far from home in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Army Criminal Investigative Command is probing the killings and seeking a motive for the slaughter as officials in southern Afghanistan came under gunfire while consoling villagers whose relatives were shot dead by the soldier in their homes.
The U.S. military was holding the suspect, whose name wasn’t released, in a base at Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second- largest city, as Afghan lawmakers and street protesters demanded that he be tried in their nation’s courts.
The emerging picture of the Army sergeant was of a man worn by the chaos of service in two wars that lack clear front lines and alliances. The sergeant was on his first tour of duty in Afghanistan after three tours in Iraq, Pentagon spokesman George Little said yesterday.
After such multiple deployments, military personnel struggle “with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression — and still don’t do what this man did,” said Barbara Van Dahlen, founder of Give an Hour, a Bethesda, Maryland-based non-profit group that provides mental-health services to military personnel.
“By all accounts, it’s not the case that he cracked under pressure and it’s different from someone who’s in a firefight, sees his buddy get killed and loses control,” Van Dahlen, a psychologist, said yesterday in an interview.
Kandahar provincial Governor Touryalai Wesa and two brothers of President Hamid Karzai visited the villages attacked by the soldier today. Taliban guerrillas fired on a mosque as they met relatives of victims, Ahmad Jawid Faisal, a provincial government spokesman, said by phone. An Afghan soldier guarding the delegation was injured, he said.
Sayeed Mohammed Akhund, a lawmaker from Kandahar, said in a phone interview that legislators want the American soldier tried in an Afghan court, and hundreds of university students echoed the demand in a street protest today in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad.
“The demonstrators want the shooter to be prosecuted as soon as possible in an Afghan court and even want him to receive the death penalty,” General Abdullah Stanekzai, a police commander in the city, said by phone.