Why is the United States still at war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, more than 10 years after the fighting started? The standard explanation is that American soldiers are fighting to protect Afghanistan against the cruel and violent Taliban, supporting a just and democratic Afghan government that will respect the rights of the people.
What if the government that the United States has installed in Afghanistan turns out to be unjust and cruel, just like the Taliban? What if, in its conduct of the war in Afghanistan, the United States begins to adopt some of the brutal tactics of the Taliban? When that happens, the rationale for the long Afghanistan war crumbles to dust.
Today, NPR is reporting a story that provides one more blow to the credibility of the war in Afghanistan. Many Afghan villagers have independently given the same story: Soldiers from the American-installed Afghan government, accompanied by American soldiers, pulled civilians out of their houses at night and forced them to march in front of the soldiers, along a road that was known to conceal unexploded land mines.
The U.S. military says that there’s no physical evidence to corroborate the story, but what were the villagers supposed to do? Grab digital cameras from their remote, rural homes as they were being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night? The U.S. military, for its part, has failed to explain how so many independent sources could be telling similar stories about an incident that never took place.
If this incident did indeed take place, it’s a war crime. It wouldn’t be the only of its kind on the part of the Americans in Afghanistan, however. The more we see of what actually happens in war, the more clear it becomes that “war crime” is a redundant term.