KABUL - Warning he's at the "end of the rope" over civilian casualties, Afghanistan's president angrily accused the U.S. of not sharing information about how an American soldier allegedly shot and killed 16 Afghans in two villages.
The incident has reverberated through the already complicated relations between the U.S. and Afghanistan, endangering talks over a long-term relationship after most U.S. and NATO combat troops withdraw by the end of 2014.
The attorney for the accused soldier said Friday that the suspect is 38-year-old Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, from Washington state. John Henry Browne, a defense attorney from Seattle, confirmed his client's identity.
In an emotional meeting with relatives of the shooting victims, Karzai said the villagers' accounts of the massacre were widely different from the scenario depicted by U.S. military officials. The relatives and villagers insisted that it was impossible for one gunman to kill nine children, four men and three women in three houses of two villages near a U.S. combat outpost in southern Afghanistan.
Karzai pointed to one of the villagers from Panjwai district of Kandahar province and said:
"In his family, in four rooms people were killed - children and women were killed - and then they were all brought together in one room and then set on fire. That, one man cannot do."
Karzai said the delegation he sent to Kandahar province to investigate the shootings did not receive the expected cooperation from the U.S. He said many questions remained about what occurred, and he would be raising the questions with the U.S. military "very loudly." The U.S. military had no comment on his remarks.
The Afghan leader stressed that he wants a good relationship with the international community, but that it was becoming increasingly difficult in light of airstrikes that miss their targets, leaving civilians dead and raising opposition to night operations where troops raid homes looking for insurgents.
"This has been going on for too long," he said. "You have heard me before. 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."
On Thursday, Karzai demanded that international forces pull out of rural areas because the fight was not in the villages.
US Toll in Afghanistan
• Spc. Daquane D. Rivers, 21, of Marianna, Fla.; assigned to 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade, Grafenwoehr, Germany.
Source: Department of Defense.