“When the Americans first came, it was people like me who welcomed them,” said Abdul Jabar, 28, a truck driver from Kandahar. “Now they are killing our women and children.”
In the early years of the war, Jabar said, when slow-driving U.S. military convoys on the road between Kabul and Kandahar wouldn’t let him and other drivers pass, he was patient, seeing the inconveniences of a foreign military coalition as the price of security. That calculus shifted gradually over time but changed dramatically over the past few weeks, he said. The burning of Korans by U.S. soldiers last month and the deaths of 16 civilians in the shootings Sunday have left him craving vengeance.
Jabar said he wouldn’t be satisfied “if the American gets killed — even if 20 Americans get killed,” referring to the punishment he deemed appropriate to avenge the deaths of nine children and seven adults in Kandahar province.
Many educated, urban Afghans have worried that an abrupt pullout of U.S. troops could create an opening for the Taliban to return to power, plunging Afghanistan back into international isolation and abject poverty. The recent events, though, have led some of them to rethink the wisdom of a prolonged international military presence, even if an exit puts the country’s continued development and modernization on the line.
Farid Maqsudi, a prominent Afghan American businessman, said the burning of the Korans and Sunday’s shootings have convinced him that a swift withdrawal is the best course of action.
“The point of no return has been long overdue,” said Maqsudi, a founding member of the American Chamber of Commerce in Afghanistan who has had close personal and commercial ties to U.S. officials in Afghanistan over the past decade. “The sooner the responsibility shifts to the Afghans, the better it would be for all stakeholders.”
In the attack Tuesday, two brothers of President Hamid Karzai narrowly escaped the Taliban ambush as they were leaving a mosque in Balandi, a tiny village in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province where the rampage took place. An Afghan soldier protecting the government delegation was fatally shot, provincial officials said.
A few hundred Afghans took to the streets in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Tuesday to demand that the U.S. soldier held in the Sunday shootings be tried in an Afghan court. In Kandahar city, hundreds of students attended a memorial for the victims, and many called for the prompt prosecution of the soldier.
“He has to be punished,” said Hazrat Mir Totakhil, the dean of Kandahar University. “That was the demand of the students.”