Shooting Adds To Afghans' Anti-American Feelings

U.S. officials have not released the name of the U.S. soldier accused of killing some 16 Afghan civilians in southern Afghanistan over the weekend. The shootings come as anti-Americanism already is boiling over in Afghanistan after U.S. troops burned Qurans last month.

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It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

There was more violence this morning in an Afghan village that was the site of what appears to be the worst American war crime in the 10-year mission there. Militants attacked a high-level government delegation sent to the village by President Karzai, killing one Afghan soldier. The delegation included two of Karzai's brothers. Meanwhile, the U.S. has in custody an Army sergeant who allegedly walked into two rural villages in the Kandahar province and methodically killed 16 Afghan men, women and children.

The massacre has clearly reframed how Afghan and American officials are looking ahead. For the latest, we reached NPR's Quil Lawrence in Kabul.

QUIL LAWRENCE, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: How is the reaction playing out in Afghanistan? I mean, after several weeks ago, the huge protests over the burning of Qurans, what's going on now?

LAWRENCE: There was an expectation that it might be just as bad or worse, but so far, that has not come to pass. There was a small demonstration out in Jalalabad in the east of the country. Some students burned an effigy of President Obama, just a few hundred, and it ended peacefully. There have been some sit-ins, reading of the Quran at Kabul University, but not really what we had feared.

I've been told by sources in the Afghan media that they've gotten sort of unofficial orders not to add to the chaos, which was certainly not the case in the Quran riots. But the Afghan state media especially hasn't been showing photographs of the bodies, the sort of thing that would inflame tempers that are already quite stirred up.

It also - some people have been speculating that it means that these Quran riots last month might have been pushed and more engineered, that different warlords around the country who own some of the media or who can gather a crowd in the city when they want might have stirred up those demonstrations. Maybe they got a little bit more than they bargained for, and they're not interested in pushing it now.

Others have said that maybe people are just exhausted from last month's turmoil. And anyway, Afghans are no strangers to civilian casualties, to violence.

MONTAGNE: Well, it did seem like Afghan-American relations were just getting back on track after those Quran burnings. Does this suggest that maybe those relations will continue to recover?

LAWRENCE: What people are telling me is that they have to. It's not as if there was a great reservoir of love between the two sides just before this incident. The Afghans, most of them, know that they're not ready to defend their country and this region, or even to control the - sort of the fragmentation within the country, and they figure that they need America.

Americans seem to want out, especially after the killings that happened in the wake of the Quran incident, where American soldiers were murdered by their Afghan colleagues. But the American strategy doesn't seem like it could go that much faster, although there's some discussion of that.

There has been a lot of discussion about the subject of nighttime raids, which are still very controversial here. There was supposed to be a deal coming on how to handle night raids in the near future, and that may have been set back by this incident.

MONTAGNE: Well, again, this massacre, the Afghan parliament walked out in protest yesterday and demanded that the American suspect be tried in Afghanistan. That is not likely to happen, right?

LAWRENCE: No. The technical agreement that governs the U.S. troops here says that they're under U.S. military jurisdiction. And unlike Iraq, where this was a major issue and eventually was the issue that prevented a long-term U.S. troop presence there, the Iraqis would not grant immunity to U.S. troops. Here in Afghanistan, it has not been such an issue. It wasn't a major stumbling block to the strategic partnership deal, and from what I hear, it still isn't - although the Afghan parliament has certainly brought this up.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Quil Lawrence, speaking to us from Kabul. Thanks very much.

LAWRENCE: Thank you, Renee.

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