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Afghanistan’s Karzai Criticizes U.S. Over Massacre Investigation

March 16, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The president of Afghanistan voiced new outrage today over the killings of 16 civilians in his country. Hamid Karzai made angry new accusations against the U.S. as the American suspect in the shootings was being flown home.

Karzai fired off his new broadside after meeting with relatives of those murdered last Sunday.

HAMID KARZAI, president of Afghanistan: It is by all means the end of the rope here. This form of activity, this behavior cannot be tolerated. It is past, past, past the time.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The killings took 16 lives, mostly women and children, shot as they slept in two separate villages. Karzai demanded the U.S. military be more forthcoming, as he lent a sympathetic ear to family members who insisted, despite what U.S. officials have indicated, that the shooter could not have acted alone.

HAMID KARZAI: The story of the village elders and the affectees is entirely different. They believe it is not possible for one person to do that. And the army chief has just reported that the Afghan investigation team didn’t receive the cooperation that they expected from the United States.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The massacre was the latest in a series of incidents that have cratered U.S.-Afghan relations. Last month’s Quran burnings by U.S. personnel ignited days of rioting and reprisal killings against Americans.

And ongoing tensions over U.S. night raids against suspected insurgents also factor in. Yesterday, after meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Karzai said he wants NATO coalition troops out of Afghan village outposts. American officials played down the statement.

But, today, the Afghan leader insisted he was serious. He said he told President Obama as much in a phone call.

HAMID KARZAI (through translator): Yesterday, I made it clear that they should leave our houses and villages. This morning, the American president called me and talked about this issue. He asked, did you announce this? I said, yes, I announced it. I have said get out of our villages.

JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama was in Chicago today and didn’t mention the conversation with Karzai. A White House statement said they have reaffirmed the plan to begin a transition to Afghan-led security next year and full Afghan control in 2014.

But the statement said — quote — “They also agreed to further discuss concerns voiced by President Karzai about the presence of foreign troops in Afghan villages.”

Meanwhile, the 38-year-old staff sergeant suspected in the massacre had already been flown to Kuwait. Today, he was on a flight headed to the U.S. military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He’d originally been stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State.

And his newly-named civilian defense attorney, John Henry Browne of Seattle, said the soldier was deeply affected by the wounding of a comrade in Afghanistan.

JOHN HENRY BROWNE, attorney: We have been informed that, at this small base that he was at, somebody was gravely injured the day before the alleged incident. He’s never said anything antagonistic about Muslims. He’s never said anything antagonistic about Middle Eastern individuals. He’s, in general, been very mild-mannered.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Browne denied reports that the soldier had been drinking, which is forbidden in combat zones. He also dismissed talk of marital stress. But he did say the soldier’s deployment to Afghanistan was of grave concern.

JOHN HENRY BROWNE: He was told that he was not going to be redeployed. And the family was counting on him not being redeployed. And so he and the family were told that his tours in the Middle East were over. And then, literally overnight, that changed. So, I think that it would be fair to say that he and the family were not happy that he was going back.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The soldier was previously deployed three times to Iraq, and wounded twice, including one classified as a brain injury. This was his first deployment to Afghanistan.