On March 11, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales was accused of murdering seventeen Afghan civilians
in a shooting spree outside the village of Belambey in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. Additionally, in recent weeks US troops burned copies of the Koran and men dressed in the uniform of the Afghan military shot and killed three American troops in two incidents. As a result, Americans have seen a decrease in support for the US Military presence in Afghanistan, dropping by 26 percent since last November.
This incident has raised questions, not just of the military presence in Mesopotamia, but also regarding the treatment of US military personnel while returning from tours of duty.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,
as quoted by the American Psychiatric Journal: is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma. It is perhaps the biggest problem facing veterans of the Mesopotamian conflicts as it was from returning service personnel after Vietnam and Korea.
In 2005, prompted by a noted increase in instances of PTSD, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs began a review
of the compensation offered to veterans. Then, in 2010, the Veterans Administration offered changes
; which made it much easier for veterans with diagnosed PTSD to claim monthly benefit checks.
These changes are welcomed, but this month’s incident raises important questions regarding personnel returning to conflict zones after multiple tours of duty. Bale’s attorney made the claim that he had displayed signs of PTSD and should have never been back in Afghanistan in the first place
Another aspect to carefully consider is the mentality of the West, in regards to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It seems to be an all-too common trend that people discuss the ‘wars against Islam’, this couldn’t be further from the case. In Iraq, we had Sunni and Kurdish Muslims fighting for years against Saddam Hussein’s forces and, when the Americans made their second arrival in the gulf, fought alongside them. The violence among civilians in these conflicts is the result of a civil war within Islam itself. People forget this too easily, and is perhaps the main reason we are making mistakes in these instances.
Thankfully, just three percent of Americans believe the US should immediately withdraw from Afghanistan. Such an action would be both irresponsible and unfair to the Afghani people. A suitable course of action in response to such a horrible massacre would be for a change in their policy regarding veterans and multiple tours of duty. Stop recycling personnel into dangerous conflict zones, where the threat of IEDs is prevalent in every car trip, with soldiers living on a knife’s edge constantly from the threat of rocket or mortar fire.
There is a very real danger in a heavy deterioration in the relationship between the Afghani and Coalition forces, 77 coalition troops have been killed by their Afghani colleagues since 2007, with 75% of those deaths coming since 2010. After the aforementioned shooting spree, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said coalition forces should withdraw to their bases.
Regardless of your viewpoint on the justifications for conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, few can argue that the establishment of democratic elections in both countries, supressing Al-Qaeda in the region and removing the Taliban were negative outcomes. What will define this conflict in years to come, is the viewpoint of the Afghans and Iraqis that our leaders said we so proudly liberated. The best form of repentance we can offer the people of Afghanistan is ensuring to our best ability that such an incident doesn’t happen again until we have peacefully withdrawn as proposed in 2014.