The US soldier accused of murdering 16 Afghan civilians in southern Afghanistan was distraught about being unexpectedly deployed a fourth time, but his family is "totally shocked" by the slaughter, his lawyer says.
The suspect in the slaughter of 16 Afghan villagers in Kandahar province last weekend had been assured he wouldn't have to return to a combat zone, his lawyer told the newswire Associated Press.
Seattle defense attorney John Henry Browne said the suspect, a 38-year-old US Army Staff Sergeant, had already been wounded twice in three tours in Iraq.
"He and his family were told that his tours in the Middle East were over. His family was counting on him not being redeployed," Browne said at a news conference in Seattle. "Literally overnight that changed. So I think it would be fair to say that he and the family were not happy that he was going back."
The unnamed staff sergeant had received a concussive head wound and lost part of his foot in Iraq. He had been uncertain of his physical fitness to return to combat, his lawyer said.
Browne also told the AP that the soldier had been standing next to a friend the day before the shooting, when an explosion took that man's leg off.
"His leg was blown off, and my client was standing next to him," he said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai had told visiting US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Thursday that Afghanistan was ready to takeover security from international troops in 2013 rather than 2014.
"Afghanistan is ready to take overall security responsibility," a statement from Karzai's office said. "Our demand is that this process should be executed sharply and the responsibility should be handed over to Afghans."
Karzai also called on the US to withdraw its troops from the country's villages, where they have outposts, and relocate them to their bases.
Taliban talks off
Also on Thursday, the Afghan Taliban said they were putting a halt to nascent peace talks with the US, because Washington's position was "shaky, erratic and vague."
"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.
Taliban and US negotiators appear to have been meeting in Qatar to discuss a prisoner exchange and opening a liaison office in Doha.
The massacre suspect is currently being held at a pre-trial holding facility in Kuwait, having been flown out of Afghanistan on Wednesday. His lawyer said it would likely be weeks before specific charges, as well as his name, were released.
sjt/ipj (AP, Reuters)