In Afghanistan Tuesday, Taliban militants attacked a memorial service for 16 villagers allegedly killed by a U.S. service member, killing an Afghan soldier and wounding a policeman.
The shooting began as members of a delegation from Kabul, including two of President Hamid Karzai's brothers and provincial government officials, attended a memorial service for the victims of Sunday's attack by a U.S. soldier in Kandahar. While the security detail suffered some casualties, members of the delegation escaped injury and returned safely to Kandahar city.
The Taliban had vowed to avenge the massacre of 16 Afghans, many of them women and children.
Candace Rondeaux, a security analyst with the International Crisis Group in Kabul, says it is both ironic and not surprising that the Taliban would attempt retaliatory strikes for the killing of civilians.
“They have been responsible for the vast majority of civilian deaths in Afghanistan over the years, but they do have a much more command of the propaganda value of these events than I think international forces do, and they do find ways to exploit these kinds of moments,” Rondeaux said.
Also Tuesday, hundreds of university students in the eastern city of in Jalalabad protested the killings. Some of the demonstrators chanted "Death to America” and "Death to Obama."
U.S. officials had warned the incident could lead to a surge in anti-American violence in the war-torn country. But the response so far has been muted compared with the public outrage that followed last month’s inadvertent burning of Qurans at an American military base. That led to a week of violent protests and deadly attacks against U.S. forces.
Still, the brewing public anger could affect relations between the two countries as they work to develop a strategic partnership that will define the U.S. role in Afghanistan after the scheduled 2014 withdrawal of most combat troops.
The Afghan parliament has demanded that the American soldier implicated in Sunday's attack be tried in public in Afghanistan. The United States has said he will be subject to U.S. military law, and that he could face execution if convicted.
Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson, spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, says jurisdiction over international forces in Afghanistan is governed by an existing technical agreement.
“The legal status of the soldiers of International Security Assistance Force is clearly regulated in the military technical agreement between Afghanistan and the international community,” explained Jacobson.
The issue of granting legal immunity to American troops could become an obstacle in the development of a long-term Afghan-U.S. strategic partnership agreement. Disagreement over the issue of immunity for U.S. forces was a key reason why the United States was unable to reach a strategic pact with Iraq.
Rondeaux says while rising anti-American sentiment may not accelerate the 2014 timeline for transferring security responsibility to Afghan security forces, it has put the U.S. in a much weaker bargaining position.
“What has happened really is there has been, I think, a sort of sudden realization on the part of the United States, on the part of NATO partners who are in the coalition, that they've lost their leverage," Rondeaux said. "The closer they get to 2014, their ability to influence the situation in Afghanistan politically, economically or otherwise really is going to be strongly diminished.”
Sunday's shooting could also negate any goodwill created by an agreement reached Friday to hand over control of a U.S. military prison to Afghan authorities. The issue had been another key obstacle to finalizing a strategic partnership agreement.