We asked earlier, "How many shooters were involved in the Afghan killings?" Afghan lawmakers are asking the same question, and have settled on an answer — as many as twenty.
The Kabul-based Pajhwok Afghan News agency — Afghanistan's largest independent news service — is reporting on an Afghan parliamentary probe into the murder of 16 civilians by one or more U.S. soldiers over the weekend. According to the report (h/t Steve Hynd via Twitter; my emphasis and reparagraphing):
A parliamentary probe team on Thursday said up to 20 American troops were involved in Sunday’s killing of 16 civilians in southern Kandahar province.A stunning development, if true. The U.S. military is holding to the "lone gunman" theory, and has flown the soldier who has reportedly confessed out of the country. Some of the lawmakers wanted the perpetrator(s) tried in Afghanistan.
The probing delegation includes lawmakers [eight MPs listed]. ... The team spent two days in the province, interviewing the bereaved families, tribal elders, survivors and collecting evidences at the site in Panjwai district. Hamizai Lali told Pajhwok Afghan News their investigation showed there were 15 to 20 American soldiers, who executed the brutal killings.
“We closely examined the site of the incident, talked to the families who lost their beloved ones, the injured people and tribal elders,” he said. He added the attack lasted one hour involving two groups of American soldiers in the middle of the night on Sunday.
“The villages are one and a half kilometre from the American military base. We are convinced that one soldier cannot kill so many people in two villages within one hour at the same time, and the 16 civilians, most of them children and women, have been killed by the two groups.”
There are several implications to this report. Just a few:
1. Will it get near-term media traction? Let's see if the British independent press picks it up, or some prime American source. These are critical hours for the story in the U.S.; the fruit is still unripe, still vulnerable to the frosty stare of the next missing news-blonde.
2. In the U.S. what will be the response? At some point there will be a trial. That in itself could rekindle awareness. After all, if one or more people had gone on a midnight killing spree of 16 women and children in Kansas, we'd be inundated with it, drowning in it.
3. In Afghanistan, this could change the political equation. Yes, we're talking about maybe exiting the war. But there's now more on the table for honor-focused tribal leaders than just our leaving. The report includes this:
The lawmaker said the Wolesi Jirga would not sit silent until the killers were prosecuted in Afghanistan. "If the international community does not play its role in punishing the perpetrators, the Wolesi Jirga would declare foreign troops as occupying forces, like the Russians," Lali warned.The Wolesi Jirga is the lower house of the Afghan parliament. Declaring U.S. troops an occupying force would have an effect. Lali, by the way, is Chairman of the Parliamentary National Security and Internal Affairs Commission. Not nobody.
As Rachel Maddow reported, our troops are already being "fragged" by their Afghan "partners." This could turn into a very different war than we asked for, and the Afghans seem determined to follow this through.
UPDATES: 1. More thoughts on this at the Agonist.
2. And here at emptywheel.net.
3. Informative additions by commenter hauksdottir here. This is a good comment thread. Thanks to all.
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