Details Emerge on Soldier Behind Afghan Massacre

Details about the soldier who massacred 16 Afghan civilians last Sunday have slowly begun to emerge. News outlets are reporting that the soldier, who is set to arrive at the Fort Leavenworth army base in Kansas today, was drunk at the time of the shooting and that he suffered from stress brought on by repeated deployments to war zones.

The New York Times has more:

The American staff sergeant suspected of killing 16 Afghan villagers had been drinking alcohol — a violation of military rules in combat zones — and suffering from the stress related to his fourth combat tour and tensions with his wife about the deployments on the night of the massacre, a senior American official said Thursday.

“When it all comes out, it will be a combination of stress, alcohol and domestic issues — he just snapped,” said the official, who has been briefed on the investigation and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the soldier has not yet been formally charged. His comments drew from accounts of the sergeant’s state of mind from two other soldiers with whom he illicitly drank alcohol on the night of the shootings, the official said, and those soldiers face disciplinary action.

The soldier’s identity has yet to be released. His lawyer told NBC News that a component of their defense will be bringing up post-traumatic stress disorder:

The case against the U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers is "more political than legal" and the defense will likely focus on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), his lawyer told NBC News on Friday.


Attorney John Henry Browne, who is representing the soldier, said the suspect had been training to become a military recruiter after three tours of duty in Iraq but had been ordered to return to Afghanistan "overnight."

"There will be efforts to paint him as a rogue soldier rather than focusing on how we treat GIs in general or whether we should be over there to begin with," he told TODAY’s Matt Lauer in an exclusive interview.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has stated that the death penalty is on the table if the soldier is convicted. Still, Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, is reportedly upset with how the investigation has been conducted.


The Washington Post reports:

“They believe it’s not possible for one person to do that,” Karzai told reporters, citing one man’s account of the Sunday massacre in Kandahar province. “In his family, in four rooms, people were killed, women and children were killed, and they were all brought together in one room and then put on fire. That, one man cannot do.”


The president said he was “at the end of the rope” over the issue of civilian casualties in the decade-long conflict and was not satisfied with how the United States was conducting the probe into the Kandahar rampage.


The Afghan army chief “has just reported that the Afghan investigation team did not receive the cooperation that they expected from the United States,” Karzai said. “Therefore these are all questions that we’ll be raising, and raising very loudly, and raising very clearly.”


The massacre has amplified American doubts about the war and has enraged Afghans. Karzai is demanding that NATO troops leave Afghan villages and be confined to their bases, and that security be fully handed over to Afghan forces by 2013, a year before President Obama said the US would begin withdrawing troops. The Obama administration says they are still committed to that date, even in the face of growing opposition to the war at home.


AlterNet / By Alex Kane

Posted at March 16, 2012, 11:46am