Shootings In Kandahar Further Alienate Afghans

Over the weekend in Kandahar, a U.S. soldier is accused of killing Afghan civilians during a shooting rampage. Ehsan Ullah, the principal of a girls school there, tells Renee Montagne that his school is shocked and saddened by the incident.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

When an American soldier reportedly walked through two villages in southern Afghanistan and methodically killed 16 civilians, including children, it caused an uproar from Kabul to Washington, D.C. Now, let's get a view from where the killings happened - Kandahar. I first met Ehsan Ullah two years ago when I reported on a Canadian-funded girls' school that he runs in that city.

EHSAN ULLAH: People are saddened and people are shocked. But also, we at this school feel that this is a condemnable action, but we cannot blame the whole American army for this. This can be an individual act, we believe. But we still are outraged and angry, and ask for punishment for the perpetrator, so that such incidents are prevented in the future.

MONTAGNE: Has the surge of U.S. forces in Kandahar made the province safer?

ULLAH: I don't think so. We have experienced so many incidents after the surge. And we also hear the withdrawal of the U.S. forces. So this has emboldened the enemy forces and they have increased activities - bombings. These all, you know, have really increased.

MONTAGNE: Well, you know, let me ask you, this latest terrible, terrible incident, do you think it gives a weapon to the Taliban? That is, are you worried that this happening could really give them what they need to force their way back into life in Kandahar?

ULLAH: I think they were really praying for such an act to happen, because there is utterly a big gap between the people of Afghanistan and their government and the international forces. And that has really increased further. And Taliban have really been given, in hand, a very dangerous weapon now. They can put forward to the people that, look, these international forces are not here for your security and development, and they are here to kill you. And so it definitely has left an utterly shaky trust (unintelligible) further and further.

MONTAGNE: What does this mean for you and your work? Because when we spoke a couple of years ago, and the girls that we talked to, they were risking their lives to come to the school. And your school is supported by Western donations, mostly from Canada. What could you imagine in the future, the turn of events, meaning for you?

ULLAH: Well, our students believe, we believe here, this is an individual act. This is not the act of the whole U.S. Army and the whole international community. We also have friends in U.S. and Canada and elsewhere around the world, who are supporting here, us - very sincerely, very honestly. And we cannot, you know, treat them for what an individual has done.

MONTAGNE: Ehsan Ullah is director of the Afghan Canadian Community Center, a school in Kandahar, Afghanistan. And he spoke to us from Kandahar.

Thanks very much.

ULLAH: Thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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