As Afghan students took to the streets of Jalalabad to protest against a killing spree, the Taliban vowed to take revenge and behead US soldiers. Meanwhile, Chancellor Merkel said the withdrawal plan was on track.
On Tuesday, hundreds of students took to the streets of the eastern city of Jalalabad in Afghanistan, shouting angry slogans against the US and calling for a soldier - alleged to have carried out a killing spree that left 16 civilians dead - to be tried in public in Afghanistan.
It was the first such public protest since the incident on Sunday which had sparked outrage but not yet the same mass demonstrations that the burning of copies of the Koran and other holy texts triggered a few weeks ago.
Anti-US sentiment is palpable across the country. "How can an unbeliever go into the houses of Muslims and massacre women and children?" asked one inhabitant of Kandahar. "I am very sad. I am ready to go over to the side of the Taliban and fight against these foreigners."
There is no doubt that the killing spree will serve to boost support for the Taliban, who on Tuesday warned they would take revenge.
"The Islamic Emirate once again warns the American animals that the mujahideen will avenge them, and with the help of Allah will kill and behead your sadistic murderous soldiers," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in an emailed statement to the news agency Reuters.
The reasons behind the killing spree are under investigation. A US army staff sergeant has been taken into custody. According to some reports, he is a father of two, in his late 30s, and served several times in Iraq. He is reported to have suffered a traumatic brain injury there and has been in Afghanistan since December.
"These acts will undermine all the efforts of the stabilization of Afghanistan but also it raises serious questions about the discipline in the forces that are involved in Afghanistan and are in operation," said Afghan human rights activist Nadir Naderi. "It also provides more tools to the hands of the insurgents to provoke people to rise against the Afghan government and its international partners."
Merkel surprises the troops
The incident overshadowed German Chancellor Angela Merkel's surprise visit to Bundeswehr troops in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Monday. After bad weather prevented her from making a stop at a German base in Kundus, she went on to Mazar-i-Sharif from where she called Afghan President Hamid Karzai to express her condolences.
When reporters asked her if the painstaking efforts of the past few years had not been obliterated in a matter of hours, she refused to be too negative. "I think if one looks at things objectively there is also progress. On the other hand, there are things that are worrying. That is true."
She did not think Germany had reached a point at which it could already withdraw its troops and suggested that even 2014 might be optimistic.
"I cannot yet say, will we manage it by 2013-14," she said. "The will is there, we want to manage it and it is being worked on."
Germany's military is one of the largest contributors to the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan. There are currently some 4,800 German soldiers serving in mostly the north of the country. Since the Bundeswehr arrived in the country 10 years ago, it has lost 52 troops in opposition attacks mounted against their installations, accidents or combat in the field.
Author: Kai Küstner / Anne Thomas (Reuters, AP, AFP)
Editor: Sarah Berning