It is being speculated that the American soldier who shot so many children and Afghan civilians recently probably suffered from battle fatigue and post traumatic stress disorder ("The killings in Kandahar," March 13). The Taliban has responded to these killings, as expected, in an opportunistic fashion, getting political mileage out of the tragic episode for itself and stirring up hatred against the Americans and nationalistic fervor across Afghanistan. Interestingly, the Taliban hit the right chord when it commented that an American trial declaring the perpetrator of the killings as a mad man, who acted under the duress of a mental breakdown, would only show the world that the U.S. is sending lunatics to Afghanistan.

Is the U.S. sending mentally disturbed soldiers to Afghanistan? If so, why? Do we not have the tools to screen soldiers for psychological ailments of the sort that could make some go off the deep end? Why aren't the disturbed soldiers medicated and retired from the army for medical and psychological reasons? We are completely crestfallen in Afghanistan. We have no leg to stand on, and Hamid Karzai cannot carry water for us anymore without looking like a self-serving Western stooge. That is the way the Taliban and many Afghans see him anyway.

We are at square one in Afghanistan. Many American soldiers are young and inexperienced, parochial and culturally blind to the ways of the Middle East. They seem to be no better than the enemy they have gone to subdue or train. They have no understanding of the religions or history of the Islamic world and hence no reverence for its holy books. Their training appears to be poor and they seem exasperated and disillusioned with their role in South Asia. The juice has gone out of this mission and it is now a rotting rind of misadventures and misunderstandings. Even Mr. Karzai's police and army are taking pot shots and real shots at the American soldiers. If we are a superpower, we're like Atlas when he was looking for someone to take the sky off his shoulders. It seems that the time has come to drop the sky we hold for the Afghan army, Mr. Karzai, his minions and even the Taliban. Let them duke it out in their own corrupt and bloodthirsty confrontations.

It is audacious for any nation, however big and mighty, to presume to reform and rearrange the character of another nation, particularly a far away and culturally alien one to suit its own ideals of the norm. The character of every ancient nation, like that of Afghanistan, is fired by centuries at the forge of history. When Americans bring their crude impatience and impossible expectations of democracy and freedom to that forge, disappointment is inevitable. We are defeated in Afghanistan, as we should be, for our arrogance and "bull in a china shop" attitude. This should be our lesson well-learned.

Usha Nellore, Bel Air