Karzai Calls for Troops to Withdraw from Afghan Villages

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Common Dreams

Karzai Calls for Troops to Withdraw from Afghan Villages

Blowback from the Murder of Civilians Continues to Cause Strain between US, Afghanistan

by
Common Dreams staff

An Afghan villager, right, shows an empty canister to delegation members allegedly used by US forces during Sunday's killing of civilians at a prayer ceremony for victims in Panjwai, Kandahar province south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, March. 13, 2012. Taliban militants opened fire Tuesday on a delegation of senior Afghan officials including two of President Hamid Karzai's brothers visiting villages in southern Afghanistan where a U.S. soldier is suspected of killing 16 civilians. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan)

The chaos in Afghanistan continues to escalate in the aftermath of the recent massacre of 16 Afghanistan civillians by a troubled US soldier. As a result of the incident, Afghani President Hamid Karzai pleaded for the US to pull troops out of Afghan villages and to confine them to US bases.

From the Wall Street Journal.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked the U.S. to withdraw its troops from Afghan villages and to confine them to bases following a shooting rampage by a U.S. staff sergeant on Sunday, the presidential palace said, in a move that dramatically changes the outlook for the war.

The demand, which Mr. Karzai's office said was made during a meeting on Thursday with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, would—if accepted—essentially end the U.S. combat role just as the annual Taliban spring offensive begins. There are now some 90,000 U.S. troops in the country.

Within minutes of Mr. Karzai's statement, the Taliban also declared they are suspending their negotiations with the U.S. because the U.S. "turned back on its promises," such as the release of Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Further complicating the US mission in Afghanistan, today the Taliban announced it would halt peace talks with the United States.

From the BBC:

The Taliban in Afghanistan have suspended preliminary peace negotiations with the United States.

The group blamed the Americans' "ever-changing position". One key stumbling block was reported to be US efforts to involve the Afghan authorities.

The Taliban have objected to this, as they regard the Kabul government as illegitimate.

Citizens of the country are also outraged that the soldier allegedly responsible for the murders of 16 Afghani civillians will not face trial in the country. The solider has been taken to Kuwait by US officials, leading to protests.

CNN reports:

Protesters gathered in Qalat, a city near the two villages at the center of the rampage, in a demonstration organized by religious leaders, according to Muhammad Jan Rasuli, the deputy governor of the Zabul province.
Protests, gunfire after Afghan slaughter

The protesters chanted anti-American slogans, called for justice and demanded the soldier be publicly prosecuted in Afghanistan.

The unidentified Army staff sergeant was transferred on the recommendation of advisers to Gen. John Allen, the commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

"We do not have the proper facility in Afghanistan to detain him for longer than he is being held," said Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman.

A defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the man was flown to Kuwait, which has the U.S. military legal infrastructure and personnel to deal with the suspect. The official was not authorized to release details to the media.

And the Associated Press reports that Afghan lawmakers were angry over the move and argued that "Kabul shouldn't sign a strategic partnership agreement with Washington unless the suspect faces justice in Afghanistan." The report continues:

Negotiations over the agreement, which would govern the presence of U.S. forces in Afghanistan after most combat troops withdraw by the end of 2014, were tense even before the shooting deaths of the civilians, including nine children, in southern Kandahar province on Sunday.

The killings came in the wake of violent protests last month triggered by American soldiers who burned Qurans and other Islamic texts. Over 30 people were killed in those demonstrations, and Afghan forces turned their guns on their supposed allies, killing six U.S. soldiers.

The public response to the shooting spree has been much more muted, partly because senior Afghan officials have used their influence to persuade citizens not to hold demonstrations.

The U.S. flew the suspect out of the country on Wednesday evening, said U.S. officials. The U.S. military said the transfer did not preclude the possibility of trying the case in Afghanistan.

But that didn't appease Afghans upset at the move.

"It was the demand of the families of the martyrs of this incident, the people of Kandahar and the people of Afghanistan to try him publicly in Afghanistan," said Mohammad Naeem Lalai Hamidzai, a Kandahar lawmaker who is part of a parliamentary commission investigating the shootings.

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