Afghans urge U.S. exit after killings

Mon Mar 12, 2012 9:51pm GMT

By Ahmad Nadem and Ahmad Haroon

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - The massacre of 16 villagers by a U.S. soldier triggered angry calls from Afghans for an immediate American exit even as the Obama administration vowed on Monday that the killings would not alter U.S. plans for the war.

Just days before Sunday's attack, Kabul and Washington had made significant progress in negotiations on a strategic partnership agreement that would allow American advisers and special forces to stay in Afghanistan after most foreign combat troops leave at the end of 2014.

But securing a full deal may be far more difficult now after a U.S. Army staff sergeant walked off his base in the southern province of Kandahar in the middle of night and gunned down at least 16 villagers, mostly women and children.

"This could delay the signing of the Strategic Partnership Agreement," an Afghan government official told Reuters.

The attack was the latest incident to ignite Afghan anger at the United States, coming on the heels of U.S. soldiers' burning of copies of the Koran on a NATO base last month, and other incidents that have intensified America's perception problem in Afghanistan.

U.S. President Barack Obama and his NATO partners intend to pull most of their troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, leaving an inexperienced local army in charge.

Officials in Washington denied suggestions that the killings might alter U.S. plans.

"I do not believe this incident will change the timetable of a strategy that was designed and is being implemented in a way to allow for the withdrawal of U.S. forces, to allow for their transfer of lead security authority over to the Afghans," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.   Continued...

U.S. soldiers keep watch at the entrance of a U.S. base in Panjwai district Kandahar province, March 11, 2012. REUTERS/ Ahmad Nadeem
Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.