The grief of a murdered Marine's father raises a valid question: What can the United States possibly do to protect its remaining troops in Afghanistan, not only from the Taliban, but from Afghan security forces and civilians who are tired of what they see as an occupation that has gone on far too long?
The answer, sadly, may be: not much. If there's one thing Afghans have proved over the centuries, it is that they don't like being occupied by foreign powers. No matter how much our government may assert that we are there to help, a lot of Afghans don't see it that way -- not even the security forces who are supposed to be our allies.
The question arises again because of the death of Marine Lance Cpl. Greg Buckley Jr. He and two other Marines died at the hands of the rifle-wielding 15-year-old aide to an Afghan police commander. A chilling story in Monday's Newsday shows the fears that Buckley, 21, was expressing to his father about the hostility that he felt from local citizens, including Afghan police.
Buckley had volunteered for the Marine Corps, over his father's objections, then volunteered to be deployed to Afghanistan. But in his more recent conversations with his father, Buckley made his fears known. "I just don't want to be here anymore. These people, they don't love us, they don't care about us and I fear they are going to do something to me or my friends," Greg Buckley Sr. quoted him as saying. But things were looking up. The younger Buckley had only a few days to go before he was scheduled to get his wish and come home.
Then the teenage Afghan turned his rifle on Buckley and three other Marines in a gym.
The anger of Greg Buckley Sr. is totally understandable. He wants American troops out by Nov. 1, not in 2014. But the political reality is that there is no way that President Barack Obama is going to speed up American withdrawal from Afghanistan now, in the heat of a difficult election campaign, and give Republicans a chance to snipe at him for cutting and running.
Though Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) does not support a quicker withdrawal, he said he understands Buckley's anger, and he has asked for an investigation into the rising number of attacks on Americans by purported Afghan allies. It doesn't require an investigation to explain the motive: Afghans are tired of the American presence. About the only thing an investigation can do is to give more precise details on the numbers and parse how many attacks flowed from personal animosity and how many from Taliban infiltration of the security forces. It could make suggestions about how Americans can better protect themselves from the alleged good guys. But that won't seriously reduce the danger to the young men and women, like Greg Buckley, stuck in an untenable situation.
Meanwhile, Greg Buckley Sr. is left to ponder the hard reality that his son died only days before was scheduled to come home -- and at the hands of someone who was presumably on his side in America's longest war. "This young man was assassinated over there for nothing," he said, "for no purpose."
Pictured above: The coffin carrying the body of fallen Marine Lance Cpl. Greg Buckley Jr. arrives at Vanella's Funeral Chapel in Oceanside. (Aug. 16, 2012)