Afghan leader blasts US over killing of civilians by Marine
KABUL WARNING he’s at the “end of the rope” over civilian casualties, Afghanistan’s president angrily accused the US of not sharing information about how an American soldier allegedly shot and killed 16 Afghans in two villages.
The incident has reverberated through the already complicated relations between the US and Afghanistan, endangering talks over a long-term relationship after most US and NATO combat troops withdraw by the end of 2014.
A senior US official on Friday said the soldier accused in the killings is Army Staff Sgt Robert Bales.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.
American officials had previously refused to release his name, saying it is military policy to publicly name a suspect only after he has been charged with an offense.
Bales has not yet been charged. He was being flown on Friday from Kuwait to a military detention Centre in the US.
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 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 of two villages near a 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 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 behaviour 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. 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.