Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta arrived in Afghanistan on an unannounced 28-hour visit to speak with American troops and officials from the country regarding the state of operations following the alleged shooting of 16 civilians by a U.S. soldier, Fox News reported.
According to the news outlet, Panetta is the first high ranking official from the U.S. to visit the country since the incident, which drew shock, dismay and outrage from the Afghan people and the American and Afghan government.
Fox News reported that the soldier, whose name is being withheld until charges are filed, reportedly walked off the U.S. base in the Kandahar province, where he was stationed for just six weeks. He then allegedly entered homes in a nearby village, shooting people while they slept.
“I gave (Afghan) President (Hamid) Karzai my assurances that we will bring those responsible to justice,” Panetta said in a statement Sunday, as he called Karzai prior to making the trip. “We will spare no effort in getting the facts as quickly as possible, and we will hold any perpetrator who is responsible for this violence fully accountable under the law.”
The New York Times reported that Panetta arrived and told the troops that the rampage that occurred on Sunday would not change the President Barack Obama Administration’s plans to withdraw 23,000 American troops from the country by the end of the summer and the remaining 68,000 by the end of 2014.