Leon Panetta Seen A Narrow Escape In Afghanistan
Post on 15,March 2012   6:00 PM
By - PolyEyes Staff
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New York,Mar,15:The crash of an unauthorized pickup van at an Afghanistan airfield where Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was landing was an attempted attack, a military source said to media, though it wasn't immediately clear whether Panetta was a target or something else.

The strange incident happened on Wednesday on the tarmac at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan just before Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived via C-17.

The man involved in attack was an Afghan interpreter who was holding the gasoline and a lighter with him in the pickup truck, which he managed to steal from a British service member. The coalition service member was also injured during the incident, possibly due to the run over by the pickup truck.

The Afghan interpreter successfully managed to run with the stolen vehicle over the same ramp where Leon Panetta was set to arrive. The secretary was soon diverted to another ramp after the incident. Aa The Afghan interpreter after crashing the pickup truck into a ditch, got out and had apparently lit himself on fire, according to the eye witness.

Pentagon Spokesman George Little put out a statement earlier saying "no explosives were found."

The statement also revealed that the driver is now under custody, and an investigation is going on.

Leon Panetta was visiting Afghanistan to hold a series of meetings with troops and Afghan leaders in the wake of the killing of 16 Afghan civilians allegedly by a US soldier.

"We will not allow individual incidents to undermine our resolve to that mission," he told Marines at Camp Leatherneck. "We will be tested, we will be challenged, we'll be challenged by our enemy, we'll be challenged by ourselves, and we'll be challenged by the hell of war itself. But none of that, none of that, must ever deter us from the mission that we must achieve."

Panetta and other US officials say the shooting spree should not derail the US and NATO strategy of a gradual withdrawal of troops by the end of 2014. But it has further soured relations with war-weary Afghans, jeopardizing the US strategy of working closely with Afghan forces on the transition.

Curiously, the more than 200 Marines who attended were told to take their weapons outside and leave them there before the speech.

"Something has come to light," Sgt. Maj. Brandon Hall told the troops. Asked about the order, Hall said all he knew was that "I was told to get the weapons out."

A US defense official said the request was not a reaction to an immediate threat he also said the decision was made out of respect for troops from other countries, such as the Afghans, who are never allowed to bring guns into an event. It was not a request from Panetta or his security team, the official said.

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