"Atrocity" seems too mild a word for the massacre of 16 Afghan civilians, reportedly by a single U.S. soldier acting on his own over the weekend.
According to reports, the U.S. Army sergeant left his base near Balandi, Afghanistan about 3 a.m. on Sunday and went to houses in two nearby villages, breaking in and shooting the inhabitants. His victims included 11 members of one family, including nine children. He then returned to base and surrendered.
The investigation of the event is underway. Some villagers believe more than one soldier must have been involved to cause so many deaths in so short a period of time.
While the event is being investigated there can be no doubt that this attack is the complete antithesis of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. The sergeant was reportedly serving in support of U.S. efforts at "village stabilization," or building trust and relationships between U.S. forces and village elders, making the villages more secure against Taliban insurgency.
Those efforts have been shattered by this massacre. Negotiations in the Afghani parliament on a memorandum of understanding for turning Afghan detainees to Afghan control have now halted, shutting down the transfer of security for the country to the Afghani government. They want the U.S. soldier to be tried by an Afghan court.
That should not be necessary. We would hope the U.S. military court is capable of conducting a thorough investigation and respond with a punishment that fits this horrible crime.