The Pentagon is moving rapidly to try to limit the political fallout from the recent shooting deaths of 16 Afghan civilians by a U.S. soldier.
Defense analysts say the attack is a severe setback for U.S. and allied counterinsurgency operations in the country that are based in large measure on “soft power” efforts to gain support from the local Afghan population to turn against the Taliban.
The damage grew worse this week when a senior member of the Iran’s parliament called for the withdrawal of all coalition forces from the country.
Senate Speaker Fazl Hadi Moslemyar on Tuesday went on Afghan television in his call for all foreign troops to depart Afghanistan. Mr. Moslemyar also urged all provincial councils to close offices in reaction to the killings.
Mr. Moslemyar said foreigners are not needed in the country and have brought only “calamity” and “failure.”
PANETTA ON BUNKER-BUSTERS FOR ISRAEL
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta last week disputed published reports that the United States had supplied advanced bunker-busting bombs to Israel.
Asked about the bombs at a meeting with reporters, Mr. Panetta said, “We have not discussed that area.”
Instead, the United States is discussing increasing missile defenses for Israel, which likely would face a large-scale missile attack from Iran in response to any military action against Iran’s fortified nuclear facilities, Mr. Panetta said.
“We have very close military relationships [with Israel],” Mr. Panetta said. “We obviously talk about a lot of things in terms of plans and training, etc., and we will continue to have that kind of relationship in the future.”
The defense secretary went on to outline the U.S. position on an Israeli attack, stating that the United States shares Israel’s concerns but wants more time to allow sanctions to work before conducting an attack.
“We obviously respect their sovereignty. We understand that they have to make decisions, you know, that are in their interest; the United States also has to make decisions that are in our interest,” he said.
“And obviously we will do whatever we can to defend Israel, but more importantly, when it comes to Iran, we have common cause against Iran.