Karzai wants early US troops’ pullback
KABUL (PAN): In a dramatic request, President Hamid Karzai on Thursday asked the United States to pull out all its troops from Afghan villages and confine them to bases in response to Sunday’s massacre in southern Kandahar province.
Karzai made the appeal at a meeting with US defense secretary Leon Panetta at the Presidential Palace, the palace said in a statement.
It quoted President Karzai as saying that the Afghan security forces were able to maintain security for villages, calling for an end to US troops’ combat role in rural areas.
He said Afghanistan was ready to completely shoulder security responsibility on its own, and so they demanded a speedy withdrawal of foreign troops.
Karzai called the Kandahar attack in which 17 civilians were killed an atrocity against Afghans.
The accused US soldier had reportedly been flown out of Afghanistan to Kuwait on his way home. Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby said the decision to remove him was made because there was no appropriate detention facility inside Afghanistan.
Seventeen civilians, including nine children and two women, were shot dead by a US staff sergeant in the Panjwai district on Sunday, sparking nationwide anger against foreign troops.
Karzai said the foreign troops would have been able to achieve their mission in Afghanistan, if they had respected Islamic values and avoided entering people houses and taken part in reconstruction.
Karzai’s statement comes as the Taliban declared they were suspending negotiations with the US, accusing the Americans of turning their back on promises, including the release of their prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Karzai asked Panetta to conduct a transparent investigation into the Panjwai attack and punish the culprit in cooperation with Afghan officials.
The US defense secretary once again regretted the Panjwai incident, promising serious investigation and punishment to the perpetrator.
He said the US wanted a responsible exit and successful completion of the security transition process.
After his meeting with Karzai, Panetta told reporters that he was not the target of an attack on a coalition base in southern Helmand province, where his plane was about to land when a car on the runway burst into flames. He said he had no absolute reason to believe he was the target.
An Afghan man carrying gasoline and a lighter drove a stolen truck onto the tarmac at Camp Bastion in Helmand as Panetta's plane came in to land Wednesday. After crashing into a ditch, he lit himself on fire.
The attacker, identified by the WSJ as a contract interpreter, was taken to a military hospital with burns over most of his body and died Thursday.
A British serviceman was injured in the hijacking, with the attacker then heading toward a group of US Marines, who gathered to greet Panetta on the runway ramp.
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