Karzai Seeks More Control After Charges Of U.S. Abuse
Sunday, May 22, 2005
KABUL, Afghanistan, May 21 -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Saturday that he was shocked by allegations that U.S. soldiers had abused detainees in Afghanistan. He said his government wanted custody of all Afghan prisoners and greater control over U.S. military operations.
A report in Friday's New York Times, which was based on 2,000 pages of evidence filed by U.S. Army investigators, included details about the deaths of two inmates at a U.S. military detention center in 2002.
"It has shocked me thoroughly and we condemn it," Karzai said at a news conference. "We want the U.S. government to take very, very strong action, to take away people like that."
Karzai, a staunch ally in the U.S.-led war against terrorism, left Saturday for the United States, where he plans to meet President Bush. Karzai wants to forge a long-term partnership with Washington, but he said he would reiterate a request for the return of Afghan prisoners and greater control over U.S. military operations. The United States commands an international force of about 18,300 troops in Afghanistan.
Karzai's visit to Washington follows violent anti-American protests in Afghan cities prompted by a Newsweek report that U.S. interrogators had desecrated the Koran. Sixteen people were killed and many wounded in the violence.
Many Afghans have criticized U.S. troops for allegedly heavy-handed tactics such as breaking into people's homes during operations. Karzai said all searches should be carried out in cooperation with Afghan forces.
Karzai said he would also ask for "the return of prisoners to Afghanistan, all of them." The United States is holding more than 500 prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay naval base on Cuba.
The U.S. Army report centers on the deaths of two detainees at the U.S. base in Bagram, near Kabul. According to the report, guards pummeled the legs of a detained taxi driver and chained him by his wrists to the top of his cell for several days before he died.
U.S. officials have characterized reports of prisoner abuse at Bagram as isolated incidents that have been thoroughly investigated, the Times said. Two Army interrogators have been reprimanded and seven soldiers have been charged.