The U.S. soldier who is accused of murdering 16 Afghan civilians in the middle of the night didn't want to be redeployed after being seriously injured twice among his three tours of duty in Iraq, his lawyer said Friday.
John Henry Browne, who famously defended serial killer Ted Bundy and Colton Harris-Moore, known as the barefoot bandit, told reporters that his 38-year-old client had been training for a desk job when he was ordered to return to Afghanistan overnight.
Browne added that the soldier saw his friend's leg blown off the day before last weekend's rampage, adding to his stress, the Associated Press reported.
The shootings have pushed U.S.-Afghan relations, already strained after 10 years of occupation, to a new low. President Hamid Karzai on Thursday called for a pullout of American troops from rural parts of Afghanistan, to be replaced by local security forces.
The Afghan leader also insisted that U.S. service members be confined to major bases by 2013 -- a year earlier than President Barack Obama and the Pentagon have planned.
Karzai's demand -- coming only hours after Obama had pledged to stick to his 2014 withdrawal schedule -- was made at a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who was in Afghanistan on a fraught apology tour in the wake of Sunday's killings.
Also Thursday, the Taliban called off tentative peace talks with the United States and Karzai's government, further complicating efforts for a measured drawdown of NATO troops and throwing in doubt the possibility of an orderly transition to full Afghan control over security.
Browne described his client, a highly decorated U.S. Army staff sergeant, as a mild-mannered married father of two and a native of the Midwest.
The New York Times cited a senior U.S. official as saying the soldier had been drinking alcohol and was suffering from stress after witnessing a comrade's leg being blown off the day before the rampage.
When it all comes out, it will be a combination of stress, alcohol and domestic issues -- he just snapped, the official told the Times.
According to various reports, the soldier was being flown back to the United States only a day after landing in Kuwait from Afghanistan.
Authorities in Kuwait were angered upon hearing from media reports that the American was being detained in their country, the Times quoted the senior U.S. official as saying. When they learned about it, the Kuwaitis blew a gasket and wanted him out of there, the official said.
While hailing the soldier's military career, Browne appeared to be building a case around a defense of post-traumatic stress disorder for his client.
The [U.S.] government is going to want to blame this on an individual rather than blame it on the war, the lawyer told a news conference in Seattle. I think it's of interest that we have a soldier who has an exemplary record, a decorated soldier who was injured in Iraq, to his brain and to his body and then despite that was sent back.
He felt it was his duty to stand up for the United States. ... He is a career military man.
The killings are the latest in a series of violent incidents that have damaged relations between NATO forces and the Afghan public.
Last month it emerged that U.S. soldiers at the Bagram air base had accidentally burned a number of Qurans as trash, sparking deadly riots throughout the country in which 30 Afghans and six U.S. service members were killed.