US: No Change in Afghan Strategy After Shooting Spree

Posted March 12th, 2012 at 8:10 pm (UTC-5)
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The White House says the United States will not change its strategy or objectives in Afghanistan following the shooting of 16 Afghan civilians, allegedly by a U.S. soldier.

White House spokesman Jay Carney Monday said Washington remains committed to its mission of dismantling al-Qaida in Afghanistan. Carney said he does not believe this incident will change the timetable of that strategy, which he said is being implemented in a way that allows for the withdrawal of U.S. forces and the transfer of security authority to the Afghans.

The Taliban said it will avenge the death of every Afghan killed by what it called “American savages.”

The Afghan parliament condemned the killings, urging the U.S. government to punish the culprits and put them on trial in a public court. Afghan lawmakers Monday said they have “run out of patience” with the lack of oversight of foreign soldiers.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at the United Nations, expressed shock at the massacre. She condemned the attack, saying, “this is not who we are and the United States is committed to seeing that those responsible are held accountable.”

A spokesman ISAF forces Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson said the recent incidents are of grave concern.

“From ISAF's point of view, of course, these incidents and in particular, the short distance between the incidents that we have seen in the recent weeks, are a burden and are of concern for ISAF.''

U.S. and Afghan officials say the U.S. soldier walked off his base before dawn Sunday and attacked homes in the Panjwai district of southern Kandahar province, shooting and killing civilians, including many children. Villagers say he set some of the bodies on fire.

NATO officials say the suspect, identified as a U.S. Army staff sergeant, was acting alone and turned himself in following the shooting rampage.

Specialists in U.S. military law say that if a series of investigations finds sufficient legal evidence, the Army sergeant will be charged and will face a court martial.

Eugene Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School, says there is no chance the suspect will be turned over to the Afghan court system. Fidell says he is likely to remain in U.S. military custody and may be held outside of Afghanistan.

U.S. forces stepped up security Monday, as the American embassy warned U.S. citizens in Afghanistan of the possibility of reprisals.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has demanded an explanation for attack and said the act was “an intentional killing of innocent civilians that cannot be forgiven.”

U.S. President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have expressed condolences and promised thorough investigations. Panetta Monday said incidents such as Sunday's attack are terrible, but have taken place in all wars. He said this will not be the last time a similar incident happens.