Saturday, December 16, 2017

After shootings, Afghan support for U.S. departure grows

KABUL, Afghanistan — A growing number of Afghans say they have come to see a quick U.S. pullout as the best of bad options, a shift in line with Americans' growing disapproval of the decade-long war.

The sentiment follows a killing rampage Sunday allegedly by a U.S. soldier and an attack Tuesday by suspected Taliban fighters on an Afghan government delegation visiting a village where the Sunday killings had taken place.

"When the Americans first came, it was people like me who welcomed them," said Abdul Jabar, 28, a truck driver from Kandahar. "Now they are killing our women and children."

During the early years of the war, he said, when slow-driving U.S. military convoys on the road between Kabul and Kandahar wouldn't let him and other vehicles pass, he was patient, seeing the inconveniences of a foreign military coalition as the price of security. That shifted gradually over time but dramatically over the past few weeks, he said. U.S. soldiers burning Korans last month and the deaths of 16 civilians in the shooting Sunday have left him craving vengeance.

Jabar said he wouldn't be satisfied "if the American gets killed, even if 20 Americans get killed," referring to the punishment he deemed appropriate to avenge the execution of nine children and seven adults in Kandahar.

Afghans interviewed Tuesday said the violence made them long for the end of the foreign military presence here.

Many educated, urban Afghans have worried that the abrupt pullout of U.S. troops could create an opening for the Taliban to return to power, plunging Afghanistan back into international isolation and abject poverty.

The recent events, though, have made even some of them rethink the wisdom of a prolonged international military presence, even if it puts the country's continued development and modernization on the line.

Farid Maqsudi, an Afghan-American businessman, said the burning of the Korans and Sunday's shootings have convinced him that a swift withdrawal is the best course of action.

"The point of no return has been long overdue," said Maqsudi, a founding member of the American Chamber of Commerce in Afghanistan who has had close ties with U.S. officials in Afghanistan over the last decade. "The sooner the responsibility shifts to the Afghans, the better it would be for all stakeholders."

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