More than one US soldier involved in massacre: Afghan president
Published Friday, March 16, 2012
Afghanistan's president suggested on Friday that more than one US soldier was involved in the massacring of 16 Afghan civilians in two villages last week.
American officials reported that a "rogue" soldier left a US military base last Sunday and killed the 16 Afghans, including a number of children, without the help of any colleagues.
In an emotional meeting with relatives of the shooting victims, President Hamid Karzai said the villagers' accounts of the massacre were widely different from the scenario depicted by US 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 in two different villages near the US 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 United States.
He said many questions remained about what occurred, and he would be raising the questions with the US military "very loudly."
The US military had no comment on Karzai's remarks.
The soldier involved in the killings has not been identified, but officials have said the 38-year-old is based out of Washington state. He was transferred late Wednesday to a facility in Kuwait and then left there Friday, according to the Kuwaiti state news agency and a senior US defense official.
The soldier was expected to be flown to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the defense official said. Leavenworth is the military's only maximum-security prison.
Afghan officials have condemned the decision to allow him to leave rather than face trial in the country where the killings took place.
The incident has reverberated through the already complicated relations between the US and Afghanistan, undermining plans for US troops to remain in Afghanistan after the official NATO withdrawal by the end of 2014.
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 mid-level commanders and Taliban bomb makers. The coalition says more than 90 percent of night operations are done alongside Afghan forces and that more than 85 percent are conducted without any shots fired.
The United Nations has reported that last year was the deadliest on record for civilians in the Afghan war, with 3,021 killed as insurgents ratcheted up violence with suicide attacks and roadside bombs.
On Thursday, Karzai demanded that international forces pull out of rural areas because the fight was not in the villages.
Afghan officials said Karzai made his request to pull back from the villages now during a meeting on Thursday with US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
US officials said, however, that he did not tell Panetta that it should happen immediately.
Karzai said President Barack Obama called him Friday morning to ask him about the demand to withdraw from villages.
"Yesterday, I said clearly that the Americans should leave our villages," Karzai said. "This morning, Obama called regarding this issue. He asked, 'Did you announce this?' I said, "Yes, I announced it.'"