A member of the Afghan parliamentary investigation team into last weekend’s massacre of civilians, Kandahar MP Naheem Lalai Hameedzai, says that the probe has concluded the massacre was carried out by a team of US soldiers, and not a lone individual.
The US has insisted that only one person, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, wandered off base and committed the entire massacre in a drunken rampage. Bales has been taken out of Afghanistan, and US officials told the team that an agreement with the Karzai government made US soldiers immune to trial inside Afghanistan. Karzai also accused the US of not cooperating with the probe.
The Afghan parliament has responded to the refusal to try Bales in the country by unanimously voting to withdraw from the existing military agreement with the US. Hameedzai says that Karzai has yet to sign he resolution, however.
Ambassador defends Karzai remarks on slaying of Afghans
WASHINGTON — Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States defended his president's harsh comments about America, saying that Hamid Karzai was only reflecting the sentiments of his public, "as any legitimate president would do."
Eklil Hakimi, appearing on CNN on Sunday, was reacting to Karzai's referring to Americans as "demons," and his comment that the alleged killing of 16 unarmed Afghans by a U.S. soldier was "not the first incident; it was the 100th, the 200th and 500th incident."
Asked if such comments risk turning Americans against support of Kabul, Hakimi said, "Sometimes in the media, they are putting that out of the context." And he said that "our president is doing what any legitimate president would do. He's reflecting, somehow, whatever our people are saying. The situation there, especially with this very tragic incident, is not that easy."
Hakimi's comments came at a time of unusual strain in the U.S.-Afghan relationship. While Karzai desperately needs U.S. money and military support to sustain his unpopular regime, the mass killing and other incidents have further jeopardized his domestic political support.
The United States and its allies have lost about 2,500 troops in the past 10 years; by some estimates the United States is on track to have spent $550 billion by the end of 2012. But Hakimi said that the United States is not making the effort solely for the Afghans, but in pursuit of its own goal of reducing the threat of terrorism.
He said the Afghan regime does know "how important this relationship is. And we are working as a partner to resolve all of the issues as a partner.
He said the Afghan regime does know "how important this relationship is. And we are working as a partner to resolve all of the issues as a partner."
He contended that the threats in Afghanistan will not be easily resolved, even as the administration lays plans to hand off most of the work to the Afghan government in 2014. "Down the road, it's a bumpy road," he said.
Paul Richter writes for the Tribune Washington Bureau.
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