By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and International Security Assistance Force leaders all condemned a shooting incident in Southern Afghanistan, and pledged to work with Afghan authorities in fully investigating the incident.
“This incident is tragic and shocking, and does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House.
Panetta spoke with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to offer his deepest condolences and profound regret for the tragic incident in Kandahar province. The incident resulted in the loss of life and injuries to innocent Afghan civilians, including women and children.
ISAF Commander Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, who is here to testify this week, issued a statement today saying he was “shocked and saddened” to hear of the shooting incident.
“I offer my profound regret and deepest condolences to the victims and their families,” Allen said in his statement.
In a Facebook post, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey offered his condolences to the victims of the attack and their families.
“I’m confident that General Allen and his staff are taking the appropriate steps to quickly and thoroughly investigate the circumstances of this incident,” Dempsey said.
Allegedly, an American service member left his base in Kandahar province, entered homes in the area and shot the inhabitants. Karzai said in a statement that the service member had killed 16 and wounded at least five others.
“I condemn such violence and am shocked and saddened that a U.S. service member is alleged to be involved, clearly acting outside his chain of command,” Panetta said. “I told President Karzai that the American people share the outrage felt by President Karzai and his fellow citizens. This tragic incident does not reflect the commitment of the U.S. military to protect the Afghan people and help build a strong and stable Afghanistan.”
“I cannot explain the motivation behind such callous acts, but they were in no way part of authorized ISAF military activity,” said British Lt. Gen. Adrian J. Bradshaw in a written statement. Bradshaw is deputy ISAF commander.
The service member is in ISAF custody and will remain there as ISAF and Afghans conduct an investigation, Allen said. Those wounded in the incident are receiving care from ISAF medics. “I am absolutely dedicated to making sure that anyone who is found to have committed wrong-doing is held fully accountable,” Allen said.
Panetta gave Karzai his assurances that U.S. officials will bring those responsible to justice. “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,” he said in his statement.
The incident happens just weeks after rioting over the accidental burning of Qurans at Bagram Air Field.
Both Allen and the American embassy spoke of the partnership between the United States and Afghanistan.
“This deeply appalling incident in no way represents the values of ISAF and coalition troops or the abiding respect we feel for the Afghan people,” the general said. “Nor does it impugn or diminish the spirit of cooperation and partnership we have worked so hard to foster with the Afghan National Security Forces.”
An embassy statement reiterated that the United States is committed to “an enduring partnership with Afghanistan to obtain greater peace and security in the region, which is our common interest. We deplore any attack by a member of the U.S. armed forces against innocent civilians, and denounce all violence against civilians. We assure the people of Afghanistan that the individual or individuals responsible for this act will be identified and brought to justice.”