Soldier Accused of Afghanistan Killings “Just Snapped”

Attorney John Henry Browne is representing the U.S. soldier linked to the killing of 16 Afghan civilians in the Panjwai district of Kandahar. The unidentified U.S. soldier may not be charged by U.S. authorities for weeks. ANTHONY BOLANTE/REUTERS

Authorities have not released the name of the U.S. Army sergeant accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians, yet details about the soldier are beginning to trickle out. The most recent news, the soldier is expected to be returned to the United States as early as Friday.

National Public Radio’s news blog, the Two-Way, offers these snippets:

— “When it all comes out, it will be a combination of stress, alcohol and domestic issues — he just snapped,” a “senior American official” tells The New York Times.

— The 38-year-old soldier’s Seattle-based defense attorney “says the possibility that his client suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by injuries and multiple combat deployments will be foremost among the issues his team will explore,” The Seattle Times writes.

— Attorney John Henry Browne, who has spoken to his client by telephone, also said the soldier (who has not been identified) had a day before seen a friend get a leg blown off near their base in southern Afghanistan, NPR’s Martin Kaste tells our Newscast Desk.

— And Browne said the soldier was unhappy about being deployed to a combat zone for the fourth time.

You can read more up-to-date details on the Afghanistan incident and other breaking news on NPR’s Two-Way.

Suspect Saw Fellow Solder’s Leg Blown Off

The day before the massacre of Afghan civilians, the suspected soldier reportedly witnessed his friend losing a leg according to an article in the Toronto Star.

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Afghanistan: Panetta Visit Attacked, Marines Asked to Disarm

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta shakes hands with Afghan officials during his visit. Photo courtesy of the Washington Post.

Driving a stolen vehicle, an Afghan rammed through the fence and onto a runway ramp trying to reach Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

The attack occurred as Panetta’s plane was arriving in Afghanistan at the British base adjoining Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province according to a report in the Washington Post.

Panetta was unharmed and carried on with his visit as planned, U.S. officials said.

The incident occurred as Panetta’s plane was arriving at Camp Bastion, a British base adjoining Camp Leatherneck, a major U.S. Marine base in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. The Afghan man caught on fire by means that remain unclear, but his vehicle did not explode, and he was apprehended by security forces, officials said. A coalition service member was injured in the incident.

The New York Times is reporting that Panetta was never in danger, however, there were noted signs of nervousness during the Defense Secretary’s visit.

… Marines and other troops among the 200 people gathered in a tent at Camp Leatherneck to hear Mr. Panetta speak were abruptly asked by their commander to get up, place their weapons — M-16 and M-4 automatic rifles and 9-mm pistols — outside the tent and then return unarmed. The commander, Sgt. Maj. Brandon Hall, told reporters he was acting on orders from superiors.

“All I know is, I was told to get the weapons out,” he said. Asked why, he replied, “Somebody got itchy, that’s all I’ve got to say. Somebody got itchy; we just adjust.”

Typically, Afghan soldiers are not armed but U.S. troops keep their weapons when the Secretary of Defense visits. But the top commander in Helmand decided that no one would be armed when Panetta spoke to them. However, that decision apparently didn’t reach the Marines before they entered the tent.

Christmas Carolers Serenade Marines at Camp Leatherneck

Christmas caroling is a tradition that continues even in Afghanistan. Here’s a video produced by USMC 2nd Lt. James F. Stenger and USMC Sgt. Justin J. Shemanski. If you have a family member currently serving in Afghanistan, may listening to it make you feel closer to your loved one.

The video shows an international band of Christmas carolers, including U.S. and British military personnel, as they bring holiday cheer to service members at the 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) compound aboard Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan on December 22, 2011.

Debt Ceiling, Budget Debate Concerns Troops in Afghanistan

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen addresses troops Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, July 28, 2011. DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released)

Marines and soldiers at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan and in Kandahar this week got a chance to ask questions of Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as he visited bases throughout the country.

Did they ask about operations, tactics or policy? No. The chairman was peppered with questions about the Congressional debate on raising the debt ceiling and forcing deep budget cuts.

The U.S. Treasury delivers service members’ pay checks, and sends them to veterans and Social Security recipients. “That’s something that the government leadership will have to figure out,” Mullen told the troops. “I honestly hope we don’t get there. But I don’t expect it will affect — certainly in the short-term — operations here and operations around the world.”

So, even in a combat area, U.S. troops are worried about getting paid in the short-term and concerned about cuts in veterans’ benefits in the long-term. To read the full story by By Jim Garamone of the American Forces Press Service, click HERE.

The U.S. Troops in Afghanistan aren’t the only worried ones. The following is from a U.S. Army Veteran who posted on Vantage Point, a VA guest blog for Veterans and others.

Lawrence Fox

By Lawrence Fox

As the debt debate goes on, my greatest fear is that all Veterans will suffer because of the lack of action and/or compassion we are receiving from Washington.

After watching the President’s address and the Republican response on July 25, 2011 I am relieved. You may ask why a Veteran fighting cancer would feel relief from the confusion and parasitism going on in Washington as the government threatens to reduce Veteran benefits and entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare which so many Americans require to exist from day-to-day.

To read Fox’s full blog entry, click HERE.

And the website has a special page set up for military spouses with tips from USAA on what they can do should the debt ceiling not be raised in time.

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