The cold blooded murder of 16 civilians by a US army official in Kandahar could significantly worsen ties between US and Afghanistan with some political observers believing it could even result in the US leaving the country before its scheduled deadline of 2014.
While US President Barack Obama was quick to call his counterpart Hamid Karzai and apologize for the incident, the unwillingness of US authorities to hand over the US soldier involved in the killings will not help relations on ground.
Afghan local leaders have been quoted in reports as saying they would protest night raids being carried out by occupying forces to be stopped but said they might curtail the protests if the solider were to be handed over to the Afghan authorities.
However, US officials have insisted that the American staff sergeant will be tried under US law and have categorically refused to hand him over to local police for him to be tried under Afghan law.
The Taliban has already vowed to avenge the murders of the civilians but what is more worrying for the US forces is that they aren't certain about how much support they will receive from local Afghan forces they have trained.
Guardian's Julian Borger writes that links between the NATO forces, particularly those involved in training local forces, and the Afghan troops had already deteriorated after the incident where Qurans were reportedly burnt at an American air base:
Six American soldiers were killed in the furious backlash to the Qur'an-burning, bringing the number of Nato trainers killed in the past five years to 75 at least. Two of those killed in the latest bout of bloodletting were high-ranking officers serving as advisers at the ministry of the interior. They were found on 25 February, shot in the back of the head in their offices at the tightly guarded ministry headquarters. All military advisers were immediately withdrawn and are unlikely to return to their posts without body armour and armed escorts.
The opinion of people has also begun to boil over following the incident and the number of voices against the US occupying forces has only begun to increase.
"The Americans are not here to assist us they are here to kill us," said Najibullah, 33, a house painter in Kabul said.
"I hate the Americans and I hate anyone who loves them, so I hope there is no long-term partnership between our countries," he told Reuters.
The US is no less keen than the country's people to take their forces out of Afghanistan before their deadline of 2014, but a general distrust in Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai does not make their decision any easier.
But a fear that the Afghan government would not hold out too long against sustained pressure from the Taliban without the
"If Afghanistan dissolves into a situation where the Taliban were able to take over a chaotic situation, it could easily return to an al-Qaida base for attacks on the United States of America," Senator John McCain, the seniormost Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said.
First Published On : Mar 12, 2012 19:36 IST