Army general: Massacre case will be 'long process'

March 23, 2012 - 6:55 PM
Afganistan Suspect PTSD

FILE - In this Aug. 23, 2011, file photo provided by the Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System, Sgt. Robert Bales takes part in exercises at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. It is still not known if Bales, who allegedly massacred 17 Afghans, was ever diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, but even if he had been that alone would not have prevented him from being sent back to war. The Army diagnosed 76,176 soldiers with PTSD between 2000 and 2011. Many returned to the battlefield after mental health providers determined their treatment worked and their symptoms had gone into remission. The case of Bales has sparked debate about whether the practice needs to be re-examined. The Army is reviewing all its mental health programs and its screening process in light of the March 11 shooting spree. (AP Photo/DVIDS, Spc. Ryan Hallock, File)

SEATTLE (AP) — An Army general says the case against a soldier accused of killing Afghan villagers is set to go through a "long process."

Gen. Lloyd Austin would not discuss specifics of the situation during a visit to Joint Base Lewis-McChord on Friday. He said the charges filed Friday against Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales were a first step in what could be a lengthy case.

Bales is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

Austin says he doesn't have concerns about security needed to handle such a high-profile trial, adding that the Army will make sure the resources are in place to support it.

Officials say a preliminary hearing in the case may not take place for months and that a trial may not happen for a couple of years.