Less than a week after a US staff sergeant allegedly massacred 16 civilians in Kandahar, American soldiers were banned from bringing guns into a talk by Mr Panetta at a base in Helmand province.
Around 200 troops who had gathered in a tent at Camp Leatherneck were told “something had come to light” and asked abruptly to file outside and lay down their automatic rifles and 9mm pistols.
“Somebody got itchy, that’s all I’ve got to say. Somebody got itchy – we just adjust,” said the sergeant who was told to clear the hall of weapons.
Major General Mark Gurganus later said he gave the order because Afghan troops attending the talk were unarmed and he wanted the policy to be consistent for all.
In a sign of the nervousness surrounding the trip, a sergeant major abruptly told the Marines gathered to hear Mr. Panetta in a tent at Camp Leatherneck to get up, place their M-16 and M-4 automatic rifles and 9-millimeter pistols outside, and return unarmed. The sergeant major, Brandon Hall, told reporters that he was acting on orders.
Normally, American forces in Afghanistan keep their weapons when the defense secretary visits and speaks to them. The Afghans in the tent had not been armed to begin with, as is typical.
Later, American officials said that the top military official in Helmand, Maj. Gen. Mark Gurganus, had decided on Tuesday that no one would be armed while Mr. Panetta spoke, but that word had not reached those in charge in the tent until shortly before Mr. Panetta was due to arrive.
General Gurganus told reporters later that he had wanted a consistent policy for everyone in the tent, and that “I wanted to have the Marines look just like their Afghan partners,” noting, “You’ve got one of the most important people in the world in the room.” He insisted that his decision had had nothing to do with the massacre; later, defense officials said the decision had had nothing to do with the truck at the airfield.
Via New York Times
Alas, the lessons of Fort Hood just didn’t seem to permeate the minds of our so called “leaders.” How many U.S. soldiers have been killed by so-called Afghan allies over the years? The Taliban is vowing retaliation? Maybe they should think twice since those killings by the American may just have been his version of retaliation, though horrible and ultimately futile. I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often given the vague and unrealistic mission our soldiers are charged to adhere to. They see their fellow soldiers getting killed for basically nothing. What is the ultimate objective anyway? Stripping professional and dedicated soldiers of their weapons is demonstrates the cowardice and the out-of-touch mentality of politicians–especial the one that make up the current administration.