Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has attacked the United States for failing to fully cooperate with an investigation into the murder of 16 Afghan civilians, adding that he does not believe American claims the killings were the work of only one soldier.
At times losing his temper, a tired-looking Karzai told assembled journalists that he had reached the end of a rope after a series of blunders by U.S. forces in Afghanistan -- including the accidental burning of Qurans at Bagram Airbase last month -- had brought relations between the two countries almost to breaking point.
The army chief has just reported that the Afghan investigation team did not receive the cooperation that they expected from the United States. Therefore, these are all questions that we'll be raising, and raising very loudly, and raising very clearly, Karzai said, according to Reuters.
Flanked by senior Afghan officials, Karzai added he did not believe U.S. claims that the 16 deaths were the result of one rogue soldier -- a popular theory quickly gaining traction among the country's population.
They believe it's not possible for one person to do that, Karzai said.
In [one] family, in four rooms people were killed, women and children were killed, and they were all brought together in one room and then put on fire. That one man cannot do.
Distraught villagers, some of whom had lost relatives after the soldier allegedly went on his shooting rampage last Sunday, expressed their grievances at the meeting.
I don't want any compensation. I don't want money, I don't want a trip to Mecca, I don't want a house. I want nothing, shouted one man, whose brother was killed in the nighttime slaughter, according to Reuters. But what I absolutely want is the punishment of the Americans. This is my demand, my demand, my demand, and my demand, he said.
The statement came as a lawyer for the soldier held on suspicion of slaughtering the Afghan civilians said his client did not want to be redeployed after being seriously injured during three previous tours in Iraq.
John Henry Browne, who famously defended the serial killer Ted Bundy and the so-called Barefoot Bandit Colton A. Harris-Moore, said at a press conference in the United States that his client had been training for a desk job when he was ordered to return to Afghanistan overnight.
Browne also told The Associated Press that his client saw his friend's leg blown off the day before the rampage -- further adding to his stress.
The shootings have pushed U.S.-Afghan relations, already strained after 10 years of occupation, to a new low. 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.