The Afghan president had no answers.
An emotional Hamid Karzai, flanked by his senior officials, listened patiently on Friday, as families of the 16 victims recounted the US soldier's pre-dawn shooting spree in southern Kandahar province.
The distraught elders, in heartfelt speeches, spoke of personal loss, hopelessness and demanded justice. Almost all of them insisted that, contrary to US military statements, more than one soldier was involved in the massacre.
After the meeting, Karzai echoed the elders' concern, seeming convinced by the stories he had heard.
"In his family, in four rooms people were killed - children and women were killed - and then they were all brought together in one room and then set on fire. That, one man cannot do," the president told reporters.
Below is a translated and transcribed excerpt of some of the conversation during the meeting.
Karzai: "After hearing about this painful, heart wrenching incident, I called Assadullah Khaled minister of tribal affairs and special coordinator for south]. He said they were on their way, going to the scene of the incident… he and members of the provincial council… Million and millions of thanks to you that amid such [a] painful, heart-wrenching incident, you still accepted them and received them and talked to them… and many thanks for accepting my call and speaking to me. In such circumstances, where there is a government here, there is a system and a president here, and a foreigner comes and kills your children and yet you have the patience to speak to that president - it's a big thing… it humbles us.
Brother of victim Mohamed Dawood: "My brother, who the Americans martyred, we had left him behind to take care of our plot of land, irrigate it. For god's sake, think about it: he has six children. Hundreds of thousands of incidents like this have happened in Afghanistan.
Full video of the meeting in Pashto
Karzai, nodding in approval: "Has happened."
Victim's brother: "I have heard it on radio. I don't have a television, but I have listened to radio… He was lying down with his children, it was two or three in the morning. Deduce for yourself, whether you are president, minister, or a soldier…
Karzai nods in approval.
Victim's brother: "If somebody enters somebody's home - a foreigner who speaks English and he speaks Pashto. He brings him to the door, where another holds a gun to him and says "Taliban!" Where were Taliban there? This area was near the American base.
He points to minister Khaled sitting across from him.
"The minister saw the area, he is in front of us. If I am exaggerating, we have witnesses here. The minister, Haji Agha Lalai.. all of those who are here… When my brother’s wife recounts the story… she says the Americans came and took him by the left hand and said 'Taliban Taliban'. Another comes and hits him in the head with a gun. I filled a pot with his brains. Another American goes and holds a gun to his six-month-old son, Hazratullah. And she pleads him in god's name… but he is an infidel American, I wish it had been Afghan national army soldier or a police, at least he would have known god's name. She asks him in god's name, and he slaps her away. How much honour do we Pashtons have - we might spend 100 years together, and yet we do not cross each other's roofs without permission.
Today, an American comes and slaps my woman, and dishonours her. Who has brought this on us? All of you answer me, that's it. Give me the answer.
Karzai, tilted to his left, slowly nods his head.
Victim's brother: "I am asking you, you give me the answer.
"You give me the answer," he asks the army chief of staff across from him, who has his head bowed.
"Mr Minister, You give me the answer. Because of whom, that's all.
"I want an answer," he repeats, scanning all the officials across from him. There is a six second silence. Karzai’s gaze is fixed on him, then he lowers his eyes.
"I want its answer and you are silent. Wait - my words are not done," he tells someone who is trying to speak.
Karzai: "Say what you have to say."
|Karzai listened quietly and said he had no answers [EPA]
Victim's brother: "Give me the answers to what I said," he says, looking at the officials. "I want an answer."
Karzai: "We don't have its answer." He looks at his officials, then turns his focus back to the victim's brother.
"I want its answer."
"So there is no answer?"
Karzai: "No there isn't."
Victim's brother: "So we have come to guilt?"
Karzai: "Without doubt."
Victim's brother: "We all agree on that?"
Karzai: "Without doubt."
Victim's brother: "When he [the US soldier] hits her [the sister-in-law] with a slap and she pleads him in god's name, half of his [victim's] body is lying inside, martyred, half of his body outside, martyred. She gets up and she is forced back to her place and she carries out the Islamic ritual for the dead and she lights the lamp and the place is full of Americans, who raised their voices that it was one American - and that, too, he was insane? What shame is this? Why doesn't an insane [man] kill himself… Why doesn't an insane kill his own friends? What kind of insane is he that he can kill this poor guy's 11 children and my brother and then directly find his way back to his base? That he can make it to four homes within an area of four kilometres, I am amazed at that.
"Then my sister-in-law got up and performed the rituals for my martyred brother Mohamed Dawood until the morning. For god’s sake, you think about it for a second: until the morning, the woman is sitting with the martyr lying in front of her. Then I get a call in the morning, and in what condition I make my way there?
I want no compensation, from no one. I don't want Hajj [pilgrimage to Mecca], I don't want money, I don't want a villa in Aino Mina [a posh neighbourhood in Kandahar city], I just want the punishment of the Americans. I want it, I want it, I want it. And I have laid down my own head in god's will. And if that is not possible, god be with you, I am leaving right now.
Karzai: "I understood. I understood."
Follow Mujib Mashal on Twitter @MujMash