venerdì 16 marzo 2012
Karzai casts doubt on U.S. account of rampage
16 Marzo 2012
Kabul, Afghanistan -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai cast doubt Friday on the account of events given by U.S. authorities as he met with the families of 16 civilians allegedly killed by a U.S. soldier.
In his meeting at the presidential palace in Kabul, Karzai suggested the Americans had not been frank about what happened.
"We tried to talk to the soldier involved, but there was no cooperation from America," Karzai told the villagers. "Based on what you are saying, the killer was not just one person."
The soldier, whose identity has been withheld by U.S. authorities, is accused of leaving a remote combat outpost on foot early Sunday and heading to neighboring villages in the Panjwai district of Afghanistan's Kandahar province.
There, he allegedly went house to house on a killing rampage.
Asked if he had seen surveillance footage apparently filmed at the soldier's base, Karzai questioned the authenticity of the video.
"The army chief and the police chief have been shown, or I believe their representatives have been shown, a video of the surveillance that they have, which has not been satisfactory to our team. Not convincing," he said.
Karzai said he had spoken to U.S. President Barack Obama earlier Friday and that Obama had been upset by Afghanistan's response to the attack.
Karzai suggested the relationship between the two countries was at a breaking point.
"It is by all means the end of the rope here. The end of the rope that nobody can afford such luxuries anymore," he said.
Four Afghan homes had been affected by the shooting, Karzai said.
One of village elders, who did not identify himself but said he had lost a family member in the shooting, told the president: "Now they (the Americans) are offering us money. I don't want money. I want justice."
Karzai said: "We have not asked for compensation. The Afghan government will not ask for compensation -- we ask for justice, not compensation."
The White House said in a statement that Obama and Karzai had agreed to discuss further Karzai's call to withdraw foreign troops from Afghan villages and longstanding concerns regarding night raids and house searches.
Obama also congratulated Karzai and his wife on the birth of their baby girl.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters the two leaders were "very much on the same page" in their discussions and that Obama had acknowledged the recent challenging times for Karzai.
Karzai received a report from an Afghan investigative team before talking Thursday with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Afghanistan.
The report's findings were "clearly on his mind" during his session with Panetta, according to a senior U.S. defense official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
It was not immediately known whether Karzai planned to release the findings to the families or the public.
The fallout from the killings has further strained tense U.S.-Afghan relations.
Afghans have been demanding the soldier, who was flown out of Afghanistan by the U.S. military, be returned to stand trial.
His attorney, John Henry Browne, said the soldier, who was originally transported to Kuwait, is being taken to a U.S. military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he is expected to arrive later Friday.
Karzai called the shootings a cruel act against the people of Afghanistan and told Panetta that Afghans have lost trust in the international force, the presidential palace said in a statement.
Karzai also recommended that American troops withdraw from Afghan villages, the statement said.
Defense Department spokesman George Little told reporters that "the issue of the villages noted in the press release did arise (in the meeting), but it was in the context of a shared commitment" to an agreed-upon plan that outlines the time frame for handing over security duties to Afghan forces by 2014.
The plan, known as the Lisbon Strategy, was adopted during a summit in Lisbon, Portugal, in November 2010.
In the Panjwai villages, the soldier shot and killed nine children, three women and four men, witnesses and Afghan authorities said. The U.S. military has not confirmed the number of casualties.
Afghan lawmaker Muhammad Naim Lalai accused the United States of showing "a fake video" to convince people that the soldier acted alone.
Lalai said he was one of several Afghan officials shown a surveillance video from the soldier's base in Kandahar province.
"We were shown a video in which a soldier climbs the wall of a military base and then goes indoors and pulls his bulletproof jacket off and then puts his arms up to surrender himself," Lalai said.
The United States has not confirmed it showed the video to Afghans, though a U.S. official has confirmed there is footage taken by an "aerial asset" that shows the soldier lying on the ground outside the base and then attempting to "low crawl" back into the outpost.
The soldier, who is based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington, belongs to the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, according to a congressional source who was not authorized to speak publicly.
He was on his first tour to Afghanistan but had deployed to Iraq three times.(Sara Sidner per "CNN")