In an interview yesterday on Afghanistan’s Tolo TV, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta assured the host that the soldier who opened fire on villagers in Kandahar province will be brought to justice “swiftly.”
Panetta visited Afghanistan to meet with an angry President Hamid Karzai in the wake of last weekend’s shooting rampage, in which 16 villagers in three houses were killed.
Arriving in Kansas today, the suspect in the shooting was identified as Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. On his request, the 38-year-old is being represented by John Henry Browne, who represented serial killer Ted Bundy and “Barefoot Bandit” Colton Harris-Moore.
“It’s going forward under our procedures of military justice, and I’ve urged them to do a thorough and expeditious investigation that will determine what charges are to be brought against this individual,” Panetta told Tolo. “And once those charges are brought, I can assure the Afghan people that he will brought to justice swiftly.”
The presenter asked if “ugly incidents” have put the U.S. and the Afghan government in a weaker position dealing with the Taliban.
“You know, as I’ve said, war is hell,” Panetta said. “We’ll see these kind of incidents take place. They are tragic. We need to learn from them. We need to make sure they don’t happen again. But we cannot allow those incidents to undermine the strategy that the Afghan people and the United States and our NATO partners are engaged in.”
Bales, married and a father of two, served three combat tours in Iraq before being deployed to Afghanistan. Browne called his client “mild-mannered” and told the Associated Press that the soldier had seen a friend’s leg blown off the day before the massacre.
Bales could face the death penalty if convicted of the slayings.
Obama called Karzai early this morning after the Afghan president lashed out at the U.S. to reporters and suggested that there must have been more than one shooter.