Kabul: Afghan President Hamid Karzai lashed out at the United States on Friday, saying he is at the "end of the rope" because of the lack of US cooperation into a probe of a killing spree allegedly carried out by an American soldier.
In a meeting with families of the 16 Afghan civilians killed Sunday in southern Afghanistan, Karzai said the delegation he sent to investigate the shootings did not receive the cooperation the Afghans expected from American officials.
During the meeting, the relatives of the dead insisted there must have been more than one shooter and argued that they did not receive all the information they asked for from Americans.
Previously, Afghan officials had said that there was surveillance video that was kept from them.
"This has been going on for too long. This is by all means the end of the rope here," Karzai told reporters at the end of the meeting.
"This form of activity, this behavior, cannot be tolerated. It`s past, past, past the time," Karzai added.
The Afghan leader stressed that he wants a good relationship with the US but that it is becoming increasingly difficult. He insisted that the US needs to respect Afghan culture and laws.
The US staff sergeant suspected in the killings is accused of slipping out of his base before dawn on Sunday and sneaking into the homes of three Afghan families, shooting 16 of them dead and burning some of the bodies. Another five people were wounded.
The soldier has not been identified, but officials have said the 38-year-old is based in Washington State. He was transferred late Wednesday to a facility in Kuwait and is expected to be flown to a military prison in the US as early as Friday.
On Thursday, the American campaign in Afghanistan suffered two punishing blows as the Taliban announced they were breaking off talks with the US and Karzai tried to speed up the transfer of security responsibilities to Afghan forces and said the international forces should pull out of rural areas.
Afghan officials said Karzai wanted the pullback to start now, but US officials said he did not tell Panetta that it should happen immediately.
Karzai said President Barack Obama called him earlier Friday seeking to confirm the Afghan leader had requested the pullout of international troops from bases in rural areas such as the one where the accused US soldier was stationed.
"Yesterday, I said clearly that the Americans should leave our villages," Karzai said. "This morning, Obama called regarding this issue. He asked, `Did you announce this?` I said, "Yes, I announced it.”
"I insist on this issue," Karzai said, adding: "The fight is not in the villages, not in the houses of Afghanistan."
The Taliban said they were calling off the talks because US had failed to follow through on its promises and made new demands. The militant group also said the US falsely claimed that it had entered into multilateral negotiations that included the Afghan government.
Karzai also said Friday that the Taliban should be talking directly with his government.
The moves represent new setbacks to America`s strategy for ending the 10-year-old war at a time when support for the conflict is plummeting. Part of the US exit strategy is to transfer authority gradually to Afghan forces. Another tack is to pull the Taliban into political discussions with the Afghan government, though it`s unclear that there has been any progress since January.