One of my co-workers is a Pakistani man who travels on Jalalabad Rd from Kabul to Peshawar fairly often. He was on his way back to the office today with our new gender strategy consultant when all hell broke loose on the road. Apparently a suicide bomber in a minivan tried to drive into an American ISAF convoy of 3 humvees. There was an explosion, and one soldier was injured. Then the troops opened fire on one of the busiest highways in Afghanistan, shooting indiscriminately at civilians in cars and on foot, according to Afghan witnesses.
Al-Jazeera reports that 16 civilians were killed and at least 24 were injured in the shooting. The ISAF soldiers claim they were caught in a crossfire, but witnesses say there was no attack aside from the suicide bomber. One Afghan man lost 5 members of his family today.
My coworker and the new consultant (this is her first trip to Afghanistan) were on the road, but far enough back that they were caught in the traffic jam instead of the gun fire.
Protests swept through the districts neighboring the incident, with hundreds of people in the street shouting, "Death to America, Death to Karzai."
I feel bad for the ISAF soldiers - most of them are younger than I am, and scared to death, not that they'd admit it. All it takes is one person to pull a trigger for the entire situation to fall apart. That said, the international troops are supposed to be here to make the situation better, not worse. Rumor has it that ISAF is going to close the road between Pakistan and Afghanistan for a few days until things calm down. Interestingly, the area where the suicide bombing happened is an area that has been experiencing the ISAF poppy eradication programing. Something worth pondering...