Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said today that the U.S. soldier who allegedly shot to death 16 Afghan civilians may face the death penalty.
The soldier, an Army staff sergeant from Fort Lewis-McChord in Washington state, may face capital punishment in the shootings, depending on the investigation and any resulting charges in the military justice system, Panetta said.
“My understanding is, in these instances, that could be a consideration,” Panetta told reporters traveling with him to Kyrgyzstan. “We are following the procedures that we follow in these situations to review the case and then bring appropriate charges.”
Panetta appealed for the U.S., Afghanistan and their coalition partners to stick with their strategy to end the war and not let recent violence deter their efforts.
“War is hell,” Panetta said en route to Kyrgyzstan, the location of an air base that resupplies troops in Afghanistan. “These kinds of events and incidents are going to take place. But we cannot allow these events to undermine our strategy or the mission.”
The forces involved should learn from such incidents to ensure they don’t recur, Panetta said.
“But having said that, it’s important that we push on and that we bring this war to a responsible end,” he said. “I do not believe that there is any reason to make any changes with regards to our strategy.”
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