The soldier at the center of the Afghanistan shootings has been moved from the outpost where he served to detention in a larger U.S. base in Afghanistan, a military official tells Barbara Starr.
More details are emerging about the soldier, an Army staff sergeant, who acted alone and turned himself in after opening fire on civilians, according to officials from NATO's International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF. He is in U.S. custody as investigators try to establish what motivated him.
He is in his mid-30s and has served several tours in Iraq, but he is on his first deployment to Afghanistan, said a U.S. military official, who asked not to be named talking about an ongoing investigation.
He arrived in Afghanistan in January and was supporting the Green Berets, the source said.
The suspect is from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, a military official said, adding the soldier is assigned to a Special Forces unit.
The probe is now being led by the Army's Criminal Investigation Command.
One of the villages where the shooting occured was a model village established by the Canadian forces in Kandahar, a demonstration of effective NATO interactions with an Afghan community, reports The Montreal Gazette's Matthew Fisher.
"If it happened there, this will be shocking to the people of Belanday, as you can imagine, but I think that they can recover. One bad actor cannot spoil the reputation of the whole. I believe that to be true," said Maj.-Gen. Jon Vance, whose idea it was three years ago to create model villages where troops interacted closely with the locals.
The community was chosen as a model village by Vance in the fall of 2009 as part of a project that had begun nearby in April 2009. It was copied across southern Afghanistan after NATO's top Afghan generals, Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus saw firsthand what Canada had achieved there.
The attacker's mental stability and medical history are among "the things the investigators are looking at," said Capt. John Kirby, a spokesman for the NATO-led force, in an interview Sunday night on CNN.
"This was a soldier who had been in the Army some time, had deployed before." Kirby said. "This wasn't his first deployment. But with respect to specific motives, we just can't say right now."
Over at Time's Batteland blog, Mark Thompson talks with an Army psychiatrist about war stress being a potential factor. The psychiatrist notes that the very fact the soldier left the confines of the post on his own in the middle of the night is "crazy" act on its own.
“There’s a lot of death,” says the Army psychiatrist, “and all the Americans there are under a lot of stress. The whole region – it’s the birthplace of the Taliban – is a very dangerous area,” he adds. “If the soldier was going out on patrol, he probably was attacked pretty much every day. If he stayed on the FOB [Forward Operating Base], he was probably being shelled regularly.” The increased killing of U.S. troops by their purported Afghan allies in recent months – and the recent spike in such killings after U.S. troops allegedly mistakenly burned Korans – had already blurred one line of war: you don’t kill your comrades in arms. Sunday’s horrific attack obliterated another: innocent civilians are not war trophies.
Attention is also being focused on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, though little is known about how long the accused soldier spent there. But the base has seen its share of problems and controversy.