ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN— Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the life sentence handed to an American soldier convicted of massacring 16 Afghan civilians “will not replace the loss” that his nation has suffered. Speaking in Kabul Saturday, he also said he is in no hurry to sign a security pact with the United States that Washington insists is needed before the bulk of U.S. forces leave the country in 2014.
President Karzai spoke to reporters in the Afghan capital, a day after a military jury sentenced U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales to life in prison without the possibility of release.
The Afghan leader said he did not favor capital punishment, but even if the American soldier had been given the death penalty it would not turn back the clock.
“A life sentence to him or a death sentence to him will not bring back our children that he killed, will not bring back the happiness of those families and will not replace the loss that the Afghan nation suffered. We are more in trying to bring an end to the sufferings of the Afghan people rather than seeking revenge that will not bring back the lost children of ours,” he said.
President Karzai urged the United States to take all possible steps to ease the sufferings of the victim families and continue its efforts to help bring peace and stability to Afghanistan
“What I want from the United States is to go back to those families and to provide them an opportunity for a better livelihood, to make the community happy by better economic activity. So if we are not happy today because of the loss of our children, so the next generation can live in a better environment and in that the most important thing is stability and peace,” he said.
In his news conference Saturday, President Karzai said that the United States wanted a Bilateral Security Agreement, or BSA signed with Afghanistan by October, but he was not in a hurry to do so.
Karzai is demanding guarantees be included in the agreement, such as bringing economic stability, security and peace to Afghanistan. He plans to convene a loya jirga, or traditional gathering of delegates from around the country to consider the deal.
“The new version of the document with improvements is now in our hands. I have appointed a delegation of the Afghan government at the political level to negotiate the larger political aspects of the BSA with the US government, with their representatives here in Kabul. So, as we reach understandings on the demands of Afghanistan, that I enumerated earlier, we will be ready to have a document and then that document will go before the Afghan people for their approval or otherwise,” said the Afghan president.
The security deal is meant to provide a framework for residual U.S. forces Washington wants to station in Afghanistan after the NATO combat mission terminates by end of next year.