- North Korea: Not a single vote cast against Kim Jong-un
- Gentlemen, start your drones: Judge’s ruling opens door for commercial use
- Soldier who hid, bragged about not saluting flag to be punished — in secret
- ‘Maverick’ of the seas: ‘Top Gun’ school for U.S. ship officers to launch
- Putin declares Sochi Paralympics open amid Ukrainian protest
- ‘In Jesus name, we pray’ sparks ire at Ohio council meeting
- Navy’s first laser weapon ready for prime time; drone killer to deploy this summer
- Billionaire backer: Rick Santorum ‘needs to be heard’ in 2016
- Obamacare fallout: 49 percent pessimistic; 45 percent ‘scared’
- DHS accused of holding U.S. citizen at airport, using emails to pry into her sex life
Obama expresses condolences for Afghan shootings
“I am deeply saddened by the reported killing and wounding of Afghan civilians,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “This incident is tragic and shocking, and does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan.”
An American soldier opened fire on villagers near his base in southern Afghanistan Sunday, killing 16, said Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who called it an “assassination” and furiously demanded an explanation from Washington. Nine children and three women were among the dead.
Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, spoke similarly Sunday, expressing his “deepest condolences” to the Afghan people and pledging that “anyone who is found to have committed wrongdoing is held fully accountable.”
U.S. officials said the service member was being detained in Kandahar and that the military was treating at least five wounded. One U.S. official said the soldier, an Army staff sergeant, was thought to have acted alone and that initial reports indicated he returned to the base after the shooting and surrendered.
One official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the shooter is a soldier from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, assigned to support a special-operations unit of either Green Berets or Navy SEALs engaged in a village-stability operation.
The killing spree deepened a crisis between U.S. forces and their Afghan hosts over Americans burning Muslim holy books on a base in Afghanistan. The burnings sparked weeks of violent protests and attacks that left about 30 dead. Six U.S. service members have been killed by their Afghan colleagues since the Koran burnings came to light, but the violence had just started to subside.
“This is an assassination, an intentional killing of innocent civilians and cannot be forgiven,” Mr. Karzai said in a statement. He said he has demanded repeatedly that the U.S. stop killing Afghan civilians.
Mr. Obama called Mr. Karzai on Sunday “to express his shock and sadness at the reported killing and wounding of Afghan civilians,” the White House said. The White House press secretary’s office added that during the call, Mr. Obama “reaffirmed our deep respect for the Afghan people and the bonds between our two countries.”
Mr. Obama learned of the shootings Sunday morning from senior national security staff and received a briefing before calling Mr. Karzai, said deputy National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.
The violence over the Koran burnings spurred calls in the U.S. for a faster exit strategy from the 10-year-old Afghanistan war. Mr. Obama said recently that “now is the time for us to transition.” But he also said he had no plan to change the timetable that has Afghans taking control of security countrywide by the end of 2014.
Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, in an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” said he thinks U.S. involvement in the region around Afghanistan may be risking the lives of young troops in a mission that “may not be doable.”
The tensions between the two countries appeared to be easing as recently as Friday, when the U.S. and Afghan governments signed a memorandum of understanding about the transfer of Afghan detainees to Afghan control — a key step toward an eventual strategic partnership to govern U.S. forces in the country.
But Sunday’s shooting could push that agreement further away.
“This is a fatal hammer blow on the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan. Whatever sliver of trust and credibility we might have had following the burnings of the Koran is now gone,” said David Cortright, director of policy studies at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and an advocate for a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“This may have been the act of a lone, deranged soldier, but the people of Afghanistan will see it for what it was — a wanton massacre of innocent civilians,” Mr. Cortright said.
One of the survivors, a 15-year-old boy named Rafiullah who was shot in the leg, spoke to Mr. Karzai by phone and described how the American soldier entered his house in the middle of the night, woke up his family and began shooting them, according to the Afghan president’s statement.
An Associated Press photographer saw 15 bodies between the two villages caught up in the shooting. Some of the bodies had been burned, while others were covered with blankets. A boy partially wrapped in a blanket was in the back of a minibus, dried blood crusted on his face and pooled in his ear. His loose-fitting brown pants were partly burned, revealing a leg charred by fire.
Villagers packed inside the minibus looked on with concern as a woman spoke to reporters. She pulled back a blanket to reveal the body of a smaller child wearing what appeared to be red pajamas. A third dead child lay amid a pile of green blankets in the bed of a truck.
• This article is based on wire service reports.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Dave Boyer is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times. A native of Allentown, Pa., Boyer worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 2002 to 2011 and also has covered Congress for the Times. He is a graduate of Penn State University. Boyer can be reached at email@example.com.
- As Crimea falls, Obama takes Key Largo golf vacation, Biden hits Virgin Islands
- Obama engages in Ukraine diplomacy from Fla. resort as Russia digs in
- Obama continues push for minimum wage hike that CBO says will cost 500K jobs
- Obamas, Bidens jetting off to warm resorts for mini-vacations
- Obama, first lady to promote access to student loans
Latest Blog Entries
- Obama and Boehner congratulate U.S. men's hockey on win over Russia
- Americans say income gap will shrink if government butts out, poll shows
- WH spokesman Jay Carney recognizes beard's 'insufficiency,' shaves it off
- Obama misses deadline again on budget
- Biden burns rubber in driveway, laments road restrictions
TWT Video Picks
Taxpayers must pay the freight for over-budget train projects
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Investigators puzzle: How does a 777 jetliner just disappear into thin air?
- Rand Paul wins 2014 CPAC straw poll, Ted Cruz finishes a distant second
- Senate Democrats, Republicans spar over restoring unemployment benefits
- CPAC 2014: Straw poll signals Paul-Cruz showdown
- Russia besieges Crimea as U.S. seeks diplomacy; Putin remains undeterred by Obama's sanctions
- U.S. deploys 12 F-16 fighter jets to Poland as exercise in response to Ukraine situation
- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Spoiled-kid culture creates greedy adults
- 80 people publicly executed across North Korea for films, Bibles
- As Ukraine falls, Obama takes Key Largo golf vacation, Biden hits Virgin Islands
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again