Details are beginning to emerge about the still-unnamed soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians yesterday. An official who spoke to the New York Times says the Army staff sergeant was part of a village stabilization operation in the rural Panjwai district of Kandahar, in which Green Berets forge close ties with communities in an attempt to track down Taliban leaders. Other soldiers support the Green Berets in such operations, and an official says the suspect himself was not a Green Beret. Another official tells the Times the suspect has been in the Army 11 years; a third says he is 38, married with two children, and served three tours in Iraq before being deployed to Afghanistan for the first time in December.
The suspect's unit is based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma, Wash., one of the country's largest military installations—and one that has been plagued by violence recently, the AP notes. Four soldiers from the base were convicted of thrill-killing three Afghan civilians in 2010; a military newspaper called Lewis-McChord "the most troubled base in the military" that year. It has also seen a high number of suicides among returning soldiers; a former soldier linked to the base shot a police officer in 2010; and a veteran linked to the base killed a Mount Rainier National Park ranger this year. Relatives of the Afghan victims have vowed revenge for yesterday's killing spree. (Read more Afghanistan stories.)