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Rampage in Afghanistan puts long-term US presence in peril (+video)

Yesterday's shooting spree by a US soldier has sharpened Afghan desires for foreign troops to be subject to Afghan courts. The issue is complicating a deal on keeping US bases here beyond 2014.

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In the wake of a shooting reportedly carried out by a rogue American sergeant, calls are growing louder among Afghans for international military members to be held accountable in Afghan courts when they stand accused of committing a crime. If the demand continues to gain traction, it has the potential to seriously strain or even undo a long-term strategic agreement between Afghanistan and the US.

The shooting occurred on Sunday when an American soldier walked off his base at around 3:00 a.m. At a village nearly a mile away, he then allegedly stalked from house to house murdering at least 16 people, mostly women and children, before returning to his base where he turned himself in.

In an instance such as this one, just who handles the court hearing and doles out the punishment has long proven a controversial point in Afghanistan and one that ultimately ended the US military presence in Iraq.

“I’m sure that the government will start talking to the foreigners about the prosecution of the foreign soldiers in Afghanistan after this incident. The Afghan government looks serious about it now,” says Rohullah Qarizada, head of Afghanistan’s Bar Association. “In the past, foreign soldiers committed crimes and the Afghan government could not prosecute them. Now I believe the Afghan government learned from the past and it will talk to the Americans about it.”

In Afghanistan, US troops fall under the Military Technical Agreement, which ensures that any US service member accused of wrongdoing will be held accountable by US military law and proceedings.

US forces are scheduled to end their combat mission at the end of 2013 and withdraw their forces by 2014. However, Afghan and American officials have been negotiating a strategic agreement that could keep US troops stationed here for at least 10 years after the 2014 deadline.

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