WASHINGTON — The American soldier suspected in the bloodiest rampage against civilians in the decade of the Afghan war is expected to be charged Friday with 17 counts of murder.
Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is locked down at the Fort Leavenworth military prison in Kansas and is expected to be read the official charges there. The charges range from murder, to attempted murder, to violations of military discipline, according to reports.
Bales was serving his fourth tour of duty in the early hours of March 11 when he wandered away from his remote outpost in Kandahar province. He returned to hours later, and when confronted he allegedly admitted the killings, before he asked for a lawyer.
In recent days, Bales' attorney, John Henry Browne of Seattle, has said his client cannot remember anything of that night. Bales is thought to have suffered a mild traumatic brain injury while serving one of his three tours of duty in Iraq.
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At the Pentagon on Thursday, Army behavioral and rehabilitation specialists said that while they could not in any way address Bales' case, that in most instances, traumatic brain injury sufferers recover with rest.
Browne, however, has made it clear that he believes his client was not ready to return to combat for a fourth time, that Bales' injuries were more serious than the military is letting on, and that he intends to "put the war on trial."
The rampage in the southern Afghan province also has political ramifications. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has made it clear he is angry with American forces in the rural areas of his country, a position Gen. John R. Allen, the senior allied commander in Afghanistan, said he understood, in testimony Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Allen said that he disagreed with Karzai's portrayal of NATO forces but that the anger had an understandable basis. He also noted that a significant force would need to remain in Afghanistan heading into 2013 before the planned U.S. withdrawal by the end of 2014.
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