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China Daily Website

Taliban scraps peace talks

Updated: 2012-03-16 07:03
By Agencies in Kabul, Afghanistan ( China Daily)

Contact cut off because of US' 'shaky, erratic and vague' position

Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents said on Thursday they were suspending peace talks with the United States because of the "shaky, erratic and vague" US position.

US and Taliban negotiators were believed to have had preliminary contacts aimed at establishing an office for the Taliban in the Gulf state of Qatar to launch peace negotiations.

Even though substantial talks have yet to begin, the Taliban announcement will dent hopes of a negotiated settlement to the more than a decade-long war in the run-up to the withdrawal of foreign combat troops at the end of 2014.

"The Islamic Emirate has decided to suspend all talks with Americans taking place in Qatar from (Thursday) onwards until the Americans clarify their stance on the issues concerned and until they show willingness in carrying out their promises instead of wasting time," the group said in a statement.

Soldier flown out

The American soldier accused of shooting 16 Afghan villagers in a pre-dawn killing spree was flown out of Afghanistan on Wednesday to Kuwait, and then taken to an undisclosed location, even as many Afghans called for him to face justice in their country.

Afghan government officials did not immediately respond to calls for comment on the late-night announcement. The US military said the transfer did not preclude the possibility of trying the case in Afghanistan, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said the soldier could receive capital punishment if convicted.

Many fear a misstep by the US military in handling the case could ignite a firestorm in Afghanistan that would shatter already tense relations between the two countries. The alliance appeared near the breaking point last month when the burning of Qurans in a garbage pit at a US base sparked protests and retaliatory attacks that killed more than 30 people, including six US soldiers.

In recent days the two nations made headway toward an agreement governing a long-term American presence here, but the massacre in Kandahar province on Sunday has called all such negotiations into question.

Afghan lawmakers have demanded that the soldier be publicly tried in Afghanistan to show that he was being brought to justice, calling on President Hamid Karzai to suspend all talks with the US until that happens.

The US staff sergeant, who has not been named or charged, allegedly slipped out of his small base in southern Afghanistan before dawn, crept into three houses and shot men, women and children at close range then burned some of the bodies. By sunrise, there were 16 corpses.

The soldier was held by the US military in Kandahar until Wednesday evening, when he was flown out of Afghanistan to Kuwait "based on a legal recommendation", said Navy Captain John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman.

"We do not have appropriate detention facilities in Afghanistan," Kirby said, explaining that he was referring to a facility for a US service member "in this kind of case".

The soldier was transported aboard a US military aircraft to a "pretrial confinement facility" in another country, a US military official said, without saying where. The official, who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to release the information publicly, would not confirm if that meant an American military base or another type of facility. He said the Afghan government was informed of the move.

Kirby said the transfer did not necessarily mean the trial would be held outside Afghanistan, but the other military official said legal proceedings would continue outside Afghanistan.

US officials had previously said it would be technically possible to hold proceedings in Afghanistan, noting other court-martial trials held here.

The decision to remove the soldier from the country may complicate the prosecution, said Michael Waddington, an American military defense lawyer who represented a ringleader of the 2010 thrill killings of three Afghan civilians by soldiers from the same Washington state base as the accused staff sergeant.

Meanwhile, an Afghan man driving a stolen pickup truck sped onto a runway ramp at an air base in southern Afghanistan and then emerged from the vehicle ablaze on Wednesday at around the time when Leon Panetta was arriving aboard a military plane, US officials said. The Pentagon chief was not hurt in the incident at Bastion Airfield, a British base.


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