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American soldier in custody for alleged Afghan killing spree

US Army soldier on patrol in Afghanistan.
US Army soldier on patrol in Afghanistan.

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An American soldier is now in custody, accused of killing at least 16 Afghan civilians in their homes in the middle of the night. Many were women and children asleep in their beds.

The soldier, whose name has not been released, is a 38-year-old staff sergeant serving his first tour in Afghanistan. The married father of two has served three tours in Iraq. His home base is Lewis McChord in Washington State.

The rampage has increased scrutiny on the American presence in Afghanistan, especially after two other recent events have inflamed anti-American feelings: troops burning Korans and a video showing Marines urinating on Taliban corpses.

Michael Hirsh of the National Journal joins the show to discuss the ramifications of these controversial events and the future of America's involvement in the region.

The Afghanistan war, the longest in US history, has claimed the lives of more than 1,800 US soldiers and cost more than $400 billion. While plans to exit the region have been scheduled for 2014, pressure for an accelerated withdrawal has gained momentum in recent weeks.

Plans to hammer out a concrete exit date were set with NATO for May, but this required the willing participation of Afghan forces. The plan is now in danger given the friction between NATO forces and Afghan troops.

With the Taliban threatening retaliation, Hirsh says the most recent incident "will increase the sense in Washington ... that this is a quagmire and there is nothing to do but get out."


Michael Hirsh is chief correspondent for National Journal.