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U.S.-Afghan divide seen in perceptions of village massacre

Americans view the killing of 16 villagers as an aberration and a betrayal of U.S. values. For Afghans, the incident is similar to many others, accidental or otherwise, that cause civilian deaths.

March 17, 2012|By Laura King, Los Angeles Times

But even after such a loss, he believes the too-rapid departure of U.S. troops could plunge the country into deeper chaos, perhaps even a civil war.

"It's too easy for all Western forces to leave us," he said. "They have got to finish what they have started. We are not in a position to stand on our own feet."

In the last week, Karzai has appeared to be trying to assuage the anger of bereaved Panjwayi villagers, and at the same time maintain lines of communication with his Western patrons.

Though publicly declaring Friday that he was "at the end of the rope" with civilian casualties, the Afghan leader also spoke with U.S. officials, including Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, and asserted that more dialogue was needed on all questions, including where American-led forces were to be deployed.

In a telephone conversation Friday with President Obama, Karzai agreed to talk more about the issue of whether U.S. forces should pull up stakes in village outposts, both sides said. NATO has a summit scheduled in May in Chicago.

Although the deaths in Panjwayi did not result in violent nationwide demonstrations such as those that followed the burning of Korans at an American air base last month, the fallout from the killings may prove long lasting in a deeper, more heartsick way.

Devout Muslims felt obliged to take to the streets for large-scale demonstrations against the burning of the holy books, but remembrances of war dead tend to be more subdued and more scattered.

"I'm the one who feels the pain, no one else," said Abdul Haq, whose brother was killed in a Taliban attack late last year. "It's the same everywhere. The West is careless of our suffering."

Special correspondents Aimal Yaqubi and Hashmat Baktash in Kabul and a special correspondent in Kandahar province contributed to this report.

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