Lawmakers in Afghanistan are furious that the US has chosen to fly its soldier, accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians, to Kuwait.
Digital Journal recently reported on the case of the killing of 16 Afghan villagers, including 9 children who were shot in their houses by at least one US serviceman on Sunday, 11 March 2012.
The soldier was being held by the US military in Kandahar until Wednesday evening, when US forces flew him out to Kuwait "on condition of anonymity", according to a US official.
Unless the suspect faces justice in Afghanistan, legislators in that country have urged Kabul not to sign a strategic partnership pact with Washington
According to RT, Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain John Kirby said on Wesnesday, "We do not have appropriate detention facilities in Afghanistan." He added that meant a facility for a US service member "in this kind of case."
Kirby did add that the transfer did not necessarily mean that the trial would be held outside Afghanistan, as US officials had said that it would technically be possible to hold proceedings in the country.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, meeting with troops and Afghan leaders on Wednesday, said the serviceman could face the death penalty. Panetta arrived for his unannounced visit 3 days after the massacre in Kandahar province.
On Afghanistan's side, "It was the demand of the families of the martyrs of this incident, the people of Kandahar and the people of Afghanistan to try him publicly in Afghanistan," said Mohammad Naeem Lalai Hamidzai, a Kandahar lawmaker who is part of a parliamentary commission investigating the shootings.
All of this is causing officials to wish to deadlock talks on the strategic partnership agreement between Kabul and Washington unless the suspect faces justice in Afghanistan.
The partnership agreement is meant to regulate US involvement in Afghanistan beyond 2014, when the last troops are set to leave the country. The US wishes to maintain advisers in the country as it winds down its military presence.
The Strategic Partnership Agreement, which the two countries have been discussing for over a year, was supposed to become a key part of the strategy.
American military defense lawyer Michael Waddington says the decision to remove the soldier from the country may complicate the prosecution. If the trial is held elsewhere, prosecutors won't be able to use statements from Afghan witnesses unless the defense is able to cross-examine them, he said.
However, Waddington added the decision to remove the suspect was likely a security call.
According to an Afghan official who viewed the footage, a US surveillance video caught the solder walking up to his base, laying down his weapon and raising his arms in surrender. US authorities showed this footage to the Afghans to prove that only one soldier was involved in the shootings.
However, there are apparently a further 2 or 3 hours of video footage covering the time of the attack and Afghan investigators are trying to get this footage from the US military.
As reported on Digital Journal recently, witnesses to the atrocity say that several drunken American servicemen were involved, not just one soldier. Afghans rightfully want to ensure that justice is properly served.
Afghanistan has been the site of mass protests against the killing rampage and around 1,000 Afghans took to the streets on Thursday to protest the massacre of these civilians.