The Afghan president had no answers.
An emotional Hamid Karzai, flanked by his senior officials, listened patiently on Friday, as families of the 16 victims recounted the US soldier's pre-dawn shooting spree in southern Kandahar province.
The distraught elders, in heartfelt speeches, spoke of personal loss, hopelessness and demanded justice. Almost all of them insisted that, contrary to US military statements, more than one soldier was involved in the massacre.
After the meeting, Karzai echoed the elders' concern, seeming convinced by the stories he had heard.
"In his family, in four rooms people were killed - children and women were killed - and then they were all brought together in one room and then set on fire. That, one man cannot do," the president told reporters.
Below is a translated and transcribed excerpt of some of the conversation during the meeting.
Karzai: "After hearing about this painful, heart wrenching incident, I called Assadullah Khaled minister of tribal affairs and special coordinator for south]. He said they were on their way, going to the scene of the incident… he and members of the provincial council… Million and millions of thanks to you that amid such [a] painful, heart-wrenching incident, you still accepted them and received them and talked to them… and many thanks for accepting my call and speaking to me. In such circumstances, where there is a government here, there is a system and a president here, and a foreigner comes and kills your children and yet you have the patience to speak to that president - it's a big thing… it humbles us.
Brother of victim Mohamed Dawood: "My brother, who the Americans martyred, we had left him behind to take care of our plot of land, irrigate it. For god's sake, think about it: he has six children. Hundreds of thousands of incidents like this have happened in Afghanistan. More