A four-year-old Afghan boy was gunned down by US Marines on Wednesday. Local police officials say that bad weather and poor visibility most likely led to the unfortunate accident. Despite the unintentional nature of the death, the incident only puts further strain on strained relations between Kabul and D.C.
According to a public statement made from the local government in the Helmand Province, US marines believed the Afghan boy was an enemy fighter. “Dusty” conditions created confusion among US troops. At the time the soldiers believed they were under fire. US forces in the area had exchanged fire in the area only hours beforehand the Afghan boy’s death. One police official says it was “raining and cloudy” when the Afghan boy was accidentally killed. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has yet to comment on the incident.
A spokesman for President Hamid Karzai commented on the Afghan boy’s death. The statement calls for the “absolute end” of US and NATO activity in Afghan homes and villages. The accidental shooting of the Afghan boy follows a failure to come to an agreement on US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by the December 31 deadline. Karzai and his supporters have become increasingly adamant that the security pact include a near-total removal of NATO forces from Afghanistan.
In disagreement, the Obama Administration has made clear its wish to not include a full withdrawal of US troops in the security pact. It argues that without leaving at least 8,000 soldiers, the country could fall into “chaos,” allowing the Taliban to return. Karzai and others in the Afghan government have scoffed at these claims. They call such concerns “baseless as they have in the past been proven inaccurate.” If the US gets its way, it would see the security pact include plans to leave troops in Afghanistan through 2024.
The death of an Afghan boy earlier this week adds fuel to President Karzai’s insistence that US forces “have no respect for Afghan lives.” Karzai refers to incidents like the Afghan boy’s killing as cause for stalling security pact negotiations and demanding NATO withdrawal.