On March 11, the world was stunned by the brutal killing of 16 Afghan civilians, including women and children, in Kandahar by an allegedly deranged American soldier.
Backfire [By Jiao Haiyang/China.org.cn]
This incident, in addition to the burning of copies of the Quran - the Muslim holy book - and coming so soon after the recent release of photos showing American troops urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters, has prompted rallies and protests across Afghanistan.
The victims' families insist that, contrary to US claims, the killings were the work of more than one man. In making this claim at a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, they also demanded "punishment for the Americans."
The soldier suspected of having carried out the shootings has been quickly flown to the USA while investigations proceed. If charges are brought, he would be tried in a US court.
In what is a blow to the Americans, the Taliban has ended negotiations with the US regarding its involvement in a national political and military accord.
These and other developments have already begun to seriously affect the transitions in Afghanistan and Iraq, amid increasing demands for a more rapid US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The Quran burning affair also offended religious sensibilities across and beyond Afghanistan, causing everyone - from Karzai to (US President) Barack Obama and (US Defense Secretary) Leon Panetta - to issue public statements aimed at appeasing the protesters.
With more families being killed in tribal areas, all efforts to stem the tide have so far proven unsuccessful. President Karzai announced last week that he was at the "end of the road" for discussions between the US and Afghanistan regarding expected US cooperation in the investigation of the latest multiple-murder mayhem.
Afghanistan, like Pakistan before it, now faces the prospect of US violations of its territory and airspace. In Pakistan, Washington openly flouted the normal rules of engagement involving military operations within the borders of other countries in its quest to kill Osama bin Laden.
The behavior of American troops in Afghanistan is being closely scrutinized as the US withdraws from the frontline in Iraq and the calls increase for "punishment of the Americans" for their repeated displays of religious insensitivity and the increasing number of civilian deaths.
In both Iraq and Afghanistan, there continue to be instances of US troops or military/security contractors being killed by persons in Afghan or Iraqi uniform.
Muslim sensibilities are becoming increasingly offended by the open disrespect shown towards Islam and its customs.
After killing bin Laden, the US dumped his body at sea, explaining that a proper Muslim burial would merely create a shrine for his followers. This was received around the Muslim world as more of an insult to Islam than a protective measure for US national security.
US interests in the Muslim world are also affected by the comparatively light punishments meted out to American soldiers found guilty of atrocities against Islam. This also fuels Arab feelings that such light punishments simply encourage potential perpetrators to commit such acts.
By contrast to the light taps on the hand meted out in the legal systems of Christian countries to repatriated offenders in the wake of such insulting acts against Islam, punishments in the Muslim world would, and historically have, fitted the crime.
The most recent exposures of US military atrocities against Islamic symbols in nations where its troops are stationed will naturally lead to increased calls for the hasty departure of US troops from those lands - whether or not local forces are ready, willing or able to replace them.
The calls can already be heard in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The author is a columnist with China.org.cn. For more information please visit: http://www.china.org.cn/opinion/earlbousquet.htm
Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn