International troops should leave Afghanistan in 2013, a year ahead of schedule, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai told Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in a meeting Thursday.
Karzai cited a massacre allegedly by a rogue American soldier as a prime reason for NATO forces to leave the country early, saying transfer of authority to Afghan troops would help prevent a similar incident from happening in the future.
The Afghan president also called for troops to leave rural areas and villages, and return to the main bases.
The American soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians has been moved to Kuwait amid increasing violence in Afghanistan in retaliation for the attacks.
The level of violence has not, however, reached the crescendo it did last month following the revelation that a number of Qurans had been burned as trash on a U.S. base.
Afghan lawmakers have expressed outrage at the transfer, demanding that the suspect be brought to justice in Afghanistan.
The U.S. says the suspect is still entitled to fair and proper judicial proceedings, which the move to Kuwait will allow, but did not rule out the possibility of ultimately trying the case in Afghanistan.
The suspect will be held in a detention center that has held other prominent U.S. troops, most recently Army PFC Bradley Manning, held for his alleged role in the WikiLeaks case.
Afghan lawmakers say moving the soldier will only further damage the increasingly fraying relationship between the two countries.
"If the trial was in Afghanistan, the people would see that America doesn't like this soldier and wants to punish him," said Kandahar lawmaker Abdul Khaliq Balakarzai. "But unfortunately America ignored our demand."
The U.S. has assured Afghans that anyone found responsible for the shootings will be held accountable.
The Afghan Taliban announced Thursday ahead of Panetta's meeting that the militant group is suspending talks with the U.S, issuing a statement that Americans "turned their backs on promises" after agreeing on "practical steps regarding the exchange of prisoners and to not oppose our political office."
The talks were part of an attempt by the U.S. to negotiate peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
The Taliban closed a diplomatic office in Qatar that had been opened "for the purposes of reaching an understanding with the international community and for addressing some specific issues with the American invaders."
The group said it would not reverse its decision until "Americans clarify their stance on issues concerned, and until they show willingness in carrying out their promises instead of wasting time."
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