Karzai blasts US, says he is at the end of the rope
SEATTLE / WASHINGTON
Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai prays during a meeting with the family members of civilians killed by U.S. soldier in Kandahar last week in Kabul March 16.Afghan President Hamid Karzai on March 16 accused the United States of failing to fully cooperate with an investigation into the massacre of 16 Afghan villagers by a U.S. staff sergeant and questioned whether only one soldier could have been involved.
A series of blunders by the United States, including the killings in Kandahar province on March 11 and the burning of copies of the Koran at a NATO base last month, has further strained already tense relations between the countries. In an emotional meeting with relatives of the shooting victims, Karzai said the villagers’ accounts of the massacre were widely different from the scenario depicted by U.S. military officials. The relatives and villagers insisted that it was impossible for one gunmen to kill nine children, four men and three women in three houses of two villages near a U.S. combat outpost in southern Afghanistan.
Karzai pointed to one of the villagers from Panjwai district of Kandahar province and said: “In his family, in four rooms people were killed children and women were killed” and then they were all brought together in one room and then set on fire. That, one man cannot do.” Karzai said the delegation he sent to Kandahar province to investigate the shootings did not receive the expected cooperation from the U.S. He said many questions remained about what occurred, and he would be raising the questions with the U.S. military “very loudly.” The Afghan leader stressed that he wants a good relationship with the international community, but that it was becoming increasingly difficult in light of airstrikes that miss their targets, leaving civilians dead and raising opposition to night operations where troops raid homes looking for insurgents.
“This has been going on for too long,” he said at the presidential palace. “You have heard me before. It is by all means the end of the rope here. ... This form of activity, this behavior cannot be tolerated. It is past, past, past the time.” NATO has said that night operations have been instrumental in rounding up midlevel commanders and Taliban bomb makers.
US soldier upset at fourth tour: lawyer
Meanwhile, the U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians was upset at having to do a fourth tour of duty in a war zone and was likely suffering from stress after seeing colleagues wounded, his defense lawyer said. The day before the rampage, the U.S. soldier accused of the mass killings saw his friend’s leg blown off, Seattle attorney John Henry Browne said. “His leg was blown off, and my client was standing next to him,” he said. The suspect had been injured twice during his three previous deployments to Iraq, and didn’t want to go to Afghanistan to begin with, Browne said. Browne said the soldier has two young children, ages 3 and 4. The soldier is expected to be flown to a U.S. military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas as early as yesterday, a senior defense official said. During tours in Iraq, the soldier suffered a concussive head injury in a car accident caused by a roadside bomb, Browne said, and he suffered a battle-related injury that resulted in surgery to remove part of his foot. The soldier is accused of going on a shooting rampage in villages near his base in southern Afghanistan early March 11, killing nine children and seven other civilians and then burning some of their bodies.
Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.