March 14th, 2012
03:25 PM ET

Afghan shooting suspect flown out of country


The U.S. soldier alleged to have killed 16 Afghans in a weekend shooting rampage has been flown to Kuwait, a defense official tells Barbara Starr.

Earlier, Chris Lawrence reported that one reason the soldier was flown out of Afghanistan was because U.S. military did not have the proper facility to hold the soldier for "longer than he is being held."

Kuwait has the military legal infrastructure and personnel to deal with the soldier, Barbara Starr reports.

By Sara Sidner and Chris Lawrence

The U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 civilians in a weekend rampage has been transferred out of Afghanistan, the NATO command in Kabul said Wednesday.

Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby said the decision by General Allen to move the suspect out of the country was based on "legal recommendation by advisers."  In addition, the U.S. military did not have a "proper facility" in Afghanistan to hold the soldier for "longer than he is being held," Kirby explained. FULL POST

March 14th, 2012
12:45 PM ET

22 arrested in Azerbaijan for Iran-backed plot

Authorities in Azerbaijan have arrested 22 people they say were spying for Iran and plotting attacks on Israeli and Western targets, the government announced Wednesday.

Read also: A shadow war from Bangkok to Baku

A statement from the central Asian nation's national security ministry said the group stands accused of spying, treason and "other grave crimes. "The spy ring dates back to 1999 and had been supplied with money, military training and weapons, the statement said. FULL POST

Filed under: Iran • Israel • Middle East
Marines told to disarm before Panetta speech
Troops stacking their weapons at Camp Leatherneck.
March 14th, 2012
11:17 AM ET

Marines told to disarm before Panetta speech

By Chris Lawrence, with reporting from pool producer Larry Shaughnessy

U.S. Marines waiting for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to speak at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan Wednesday were ordered to leave the room and place their weapons outside.

The request, relayed by Sgt. Maj. Brandon Hall, was unusual because it's not customary to disarm for a defense secretary visit, but the Marines did as they were told. About two dozen unarmed Afghan soldiers also were in attendance.

Panetta arrived in Afghanistan Wednesday for a two-day visit amid heightened tensions after an American soldier allegedly killed 16 Afghan civilians in their homes Sunday.


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Filed under: Afghanistan • Marines • Military
March 14th, 2012
06:34 AM ET

Panetta arrives in Afghanistan amid uproar over killings of civilians

By the CNN Wire Staff

Camp Bastion, Afghanistan (CNN) - U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived in Afghanistan on Wednesday for a two-day visit amid anger among Afghan leaders about a weekend shooting rampage blamed on an American soldier.

Panetta is the first high ranking U.S. official to visit the war zone since the killing spree in Kandahar province on Sunday that left 16 Afghan civilians dead. A U.S. soldier is now in custody in connection with the shootings.

The defense secretary is due to meet with Afghan tribal leaders and government ministers, but his schedule does not include a visit to the area where the killings took place.

His first stop in Afghanistan was at Camp Bastion and the adjoining base Camp Leatherneck, where he was to meet with top U.S. and British military leaders and speak to a group of about 200 troops. From there he will travel to a nearby forward operating base to meet more coalition troops before flying onto Kabul.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Military • Panetta
Senators: U.S. indirectly funding Syrian military
An Iraqi version of the MI-17 helicopter flies over the Basmaya base, south of Baghdad.
March 14th, 2012
01:00 AM ET

Senators: U.S. indirectly funding Syrian military

By Jill Dougherty

Angered by Russia's refusal to stop selling arms to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, U.S. lawmakers are urging the Defense Department to halt U.S. purchases of Russian helicopters and parts for the Afghan air force.

In a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, 17 senators said that "U.S. taxpayers should not be put in a position where they are indirectly subsidizing the mass murder of Syrian civilians." The letter, dated Monday, was sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well.

But State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Tuesday defended the Russian-Afghan deal, saying that although "we obviously share the intent" of the senators' demands to persuade Russia to end its arms supply to Syria, "cutting off U.S. purchases would hurt Afghanistan's ability to defend itself."

Last May, the Defense Department signed a $375 million contract with the Russian state-controlled arms export firm Rosoboronexport to purchase 21 Mi-17 aircraft. The helicopters, developed by the Soviet Union, are used extensively around the world and Afghan pilots traditionally have been trained on them.