x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

American troops doing more harm than good

With eloquent outrage, two Arabic-language editors denounce the US adventure in Afghanistan, through the lens of this week's purposeful killing of 16 civilians.

At this point, American troops in Afghanistan are more of a militia than an orderly army

An American soldier leaves his base in Afghanistan, armed to the teeth, to invade the homes of civilians, kill and injure a number of them, then return to his base to tell the story, noted Abdullah Iskandar, managing editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

Prior to that, he went on, a group of American soldiers burnt copies of the Quran and posted a video of themselves doing so on the internet. Prior to that, in turn, a number of US soldiers stood and relieved themselves on the bodies of killed Taliban militants in an act of utter desecration of Afghans they'd killed in an armed confrontation.

"All this, and the US political and military commands still claim these were individual acts by individual soldiers who will be subjected to investigation before they are held accountable,"

This strong denial, along with the political failure to accomplish reconciliation and the military failure to wipe out Taliban strongholds, raise questions about what exactly US troops are now doing in Afghanistan.

It is true that Nato-trained Afghan troops had in one instance opened fire on their trainers, but that incident falls under armed confrontation with radical Afghan groups who are trying to drive Nato forces out of their country.

But what the US troops did goes beyond the framework of armed clashes with the Taliban and their allies and touches on sacred symbols of the Afghan people.

Let's put aside the presumed conduct of a professional army that is bound by all international laws to protect civilians under occupation, treat prisoners of war humanely and respect its enemy's humanity, especially once the enemy is killed in battle.

This code of ethics has long been ignored in Afghanistan despite endless statements about American keenness on serving the best interests of the Afghan people.

Let's try to forget the political and military US and Nato failure to rebuild the system of power in Afghanistan, which was the purpose of the occupation in the first place, and the failure to weed out the Taliban and establish a democratic state. Let's take a closer look at the actual conduct of these troops on the ground.

"Those soldiers were supposed to gain the trust of the Afghan people and fight the Taliban, but failure in both missions fired back at them and their animosity to the Taliban was projected onto the Afghan population itself," argued the writer. "It is for this reason that there have been incidents of direct provocation of Afghans, from public desecration of their religious and social convictions to direct targeting of civilians."

This new level of hostility towards a whole population invalidates the disciplined military aspect of these soldiers who are turning into a militia fighting in a civil war.

US soldier who killed 16 wasn't really acting alone - a whole culture of hate was involved

The vicious manner in which an American soldier killed 16 Afghans, including nine children, near the city of Kandahar this week unveils an embedded loathing for Afghans and Muslims in general in the US military, noted Abdelbari Atwan, editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, in a column yesterday under the headline America's 'civilising' massacres in Afghanistan.

"The soldier, who represents the best disciplined and most professional military institution in the world, as President Barack Obama has it, did not just kill in cold blood," the editor said. "He also took the time to gather 11 bodies, four of them girls under six years of age, and set them on fire."

After the massacre, the US department of defence said the soldier acted alone without a clear motive and will stand trial at a court-martial and may face the death penalty.

"I beg to differ with the 'acting alone' part," the editor said. "In committing his terrorist crime, the soldier was inspired by a whole culture of hate against anything that has Islam in it, and his act reflects a common set of beliefs in the US military and political establishment."

In 2001, thousands of US soldiers were drafted on a civilising mission of sorts to Afghanistan, with the aim of taking down the religious rule of the Taliban and laying the foundations for a democratic system that could lead Afghans to prosperity.

Ten years later - with every month along the way costing something like $7 billion and lives too precious to quantify - those same soldiers who came to fight "terror" are now inflicting crimes that "terrorists" would cringe at, the editor claimed.

The Taliban vowed to retaliate, "but they will not be exacting their revenge by killing American children," the editor said, "and that's a key difference between those backward Muslims - as America sees them - and the civilised US soldiers, those who belong to the leading nation of the free world."

Even the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, who has been the US "puppet" in Kabul for the past 10 years, could not stomach such an atrocity, and strongly denounced the crime. Protests ran like wildfire across the country - protests so fierce that more than 40 people have died in them so far, according to the editor.

Afghans have not yet healed from the burning of the Quran by US soldiers in February, and now this. On every level, the US presence in Afghanistan has been irremediably undermined.

"The US has lost its war in Afghanistan just as it lost it in Iraq and will lose any future war in the Muslim world," the editor said. "It is simply engaging in an exercise of denial these days."

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk