Staff Sgt. Robert Bales (left), the U.S. soldier who allegedly shot and killed 16 civilians in Afghanistan, at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., on Aug. 23.
Credit Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System / AFP/Getty Images
The United States soldier charged with the murder of 16 Afghan villagers entered a guilty plea on Wednesday during a court hearing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.
Staff Sgt. Robert Bales pleaded guilty to 16 counts of premeditated murder, The Seattle Times reports, but he pleaded not guilty to "attempting to impede an investigation into the case by damaging a laptop computer."
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
And I'm Linda Wertheimer.
When the American combat mission in Afghanistan ends next year, one concern for U.S. officials is the possibility that the Afghan security forces will then splinter along ethnic lines, and the warlords of the past will reemerge.
There's just a sliver of light in the eastern sky as the patrol leaves the American compound through a thick metal door.
They scamper across Highway 2, a narrow asphalt road that leads to Kabul, just an hour's drive away — if not for the war. They cross an old graveyard and head toward the silhouette of a tree line, all seen through the eerie green glow of night-vision goggles.
The gray line in the upper left comes from an aerial view of Afghanistan's crucial Highway 1, the main route between Kabul and Kandahar, the two biggest cities. U.S. forces are still working to secure the route which runs through lush farm valleys and the high desert terrain.
As the American military winds down its efforts in Afghanistan, grand plans for nation building are giving way to limited, practical steps: building up the Afghan forces and denying the Taliban key terrain, especially the approaches to Kabul.
About an hour south of the capital Kabul, one Green Beret team returned to a village where American forces had pulled out.
Lt. Col. Brad Moses, who was in the Sayed Abad district four years ago, wandered around the government center and expressed disappointment at the scene.
The American soldier accused of killing 16 villagers in Afghanistan last year plans to plead guilty in order to avoid the death penalty. Lawyers say Staff Sergeant Robert Bales will plead guilty to 16 counts of premeditated murder next week and that his sentencing trial will be held in September.