US official: Washington has "nothing to apologize for" in Afghanistan

Soldiers from the US Army's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, stand to attention while being introduced during a homecoming ceremony in the early morning hours of Wednesday, November 20, 2013 in Fort Knox, Ky. The 250 soldiers returned to Fort Knox after a nine-month combat deployment working alongside Afghan military and police forces in Afghanistan's Zabul Province. (Photo: AFP / Getty Images - Luke Sharrett)

Published Thursday, November 21, 2013

Washington's UN representative Samantha Power said Thursday Afghanistan is owed no apology for US actions in the country since the overthrow of the Taliban 12 years ago.

"We have nothing to apologize for. Our soldiers have sacrificed a great deal," Power told CNN, as Washington hammered out the details of a new security agreement between Afghanistan and the United States.

The issue of whether or not the United State would offer an apology for mistakes made during the Afghan conflict had emerged as a possible sticking point in the final stages of long drawn out negotiations with Kabul.

Numerous media reports have uncovered allegations of war crimes committed by US troops in Afghanistan over time. In 2005, The New York Times revealed that at least two detainees in the Bagram prison facility had been repeatedly tortured and killed by American soldiers.

In 2010, a group of soldiers – who had dubbed themselves the “Kill Team” – murdered at least three unarmed civilians in the province of Kandahar, including a cleric and a 15-year-old boy. The soldiers also took graphic photos of the bodies, and one of them amputated his victims’ fingers to keep as trophies, according to a Rolling Stone magazine investigation.

In February, a UN report revealed that US airstrikes had killed hundreds of children in Afghanistan since 2008.

A draft text of the agreement released Wednesday by Kabul said US forces remaining in Afghanistan after combat troops are withdrawn next year would be subject to American justice rather than local courts.

Power said the accord shows the strength of bilateral relations, and lays a strong foundation for future cooperation.

"What we're seeking to do is to secure an agreement that enables us to continue to work together beyond the end of the combat role in Afghanistan," Power said.

"Proof of how we're getting along is how much they want us to stay and continue to assist in the train/equipment/assist role," she said.

She added that a letter sent on Wednesday from President Barack Obama to his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai, saying he was "pleased" with the agreement, and calling it a "strong agreement for both our countries" underscores those solid ties.

"I think what the letter does, is (it)tries to offer the reassurance that the United States in whatever role it stays in – and we're negotiating that, of course, training, equipping, assisting on counterterrorism – will respect the rights and the privacy of the Afghan people. That's something that mattered to Karzai," Power said.

Power added: "We, of course always respect the Afghan people and try to avoid civilian casualties and have done that from the time we've been there."

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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