Fundamental instability: ‘Armed US youngsters playing god in Afghanistan’

US troops involved in Koran burning in Afghanistan may face only disciplinary action, a far softer punishment than was thought by Afghan officials. But no punishment would prevent such incidents from happening, analyst Robert Naiman told RT.

­An investigation into the February incident on a NATO base near Kabul concluded with recommendations for administrative action for the soldiers involved. The administrative action could include a reprimand or a pay cut, but in no case a criminal charge or expulsion from the military.

The scandal ignited deadly anti-US protests among Afghans, plunging relations between Washington and Kabul to a new low and forcing the White House to apologize. Afghan officials anticipated a much more severe punishment for the incident, expecting as much as life in prison.

But although in Afghanistan the incident was a very big deal, it would be difficult for US authorities to explain to the American people why their soldiers are getting life in prison, political analyst Robert Naiman told RT.

“I can’t imagine that any Afghan official honestly believed that US soldiers would get life in prison for this,” Naiman said. “I suspect that they were saying this for the consumption of Afghan public opinion.”

In this case the US has two audiences, two different societies with absolutely different value systems, Naiman says.

“This is just a fundamental mismatch in values, and this is why US troops should get out of Afghanistan,” he said. “No punishment in this case is going to change this fundamental dynamic. These incidents will continue until the US troops are withdrawn.”

US soldiers should not wield so much of power in Afghanistan, Naiman believes.

“It’s a fundamentally unstable situation, a politically unstable situation to have 64,000 young American men with guns playing god in Afghanistan,” he explained. “You know all over the world people see it differently when the problems that they have with authority are problems with foreigners. And in particular when the foreigners are from the other side of the world.”

Severe punishment for those responsible for Koran-burning and any equally outrageous episode is not the main question, says Phyllis Bennis, a director of the New Internationalism project at the Institute for Policy Studies. She believes the key problem is the continuation of an "illegal war" in Afghanistan, and the degree to which the number of all kinds of violations and atrocities has grown.

“Of course these troops that are responsible for these outrages should be held accountable and there should be severe punishment,” she added. “There should be severe punishment right up the chain of command, to those who have put them in those situations and set up the scenarios that have led to these actions.”