Leon Panetta OK After Explosion On Afghanistan Runway

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta started his trip to Afghanistan with a scare on the runway. A pickup truck raced onto the runway as Panetta’s plane was landing. The car crashed into a ditch and exploded in flames.

No one in Panetta’s party was injured in the crash and authorities aren’t sure if the incident was an attack on Panetta. NY Daily News reports that no explosives were found on the truck, which was reportedly stolen.

The driver of the truck, a civilian employed by the base, is currently being treated at the hospital for burns.

Panetta is traveling to Afghanistan to talk about the shooting that killed 16 innocent people earlier this week.

Politico reports that Panetta had the marines at Camp Leatherneck to leave their weapons outside of the tent during the speech. Panetta said that the reason for disarming the 200 marines was because the Afghanistan soldiers at the base were also unarmed. The explosion at the airport, as well as the tension in Afghanistan after the shooting, may have also contributed to Panetta’s decision.

Sgt. Maj. Brandon Hall told the NY Times:

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

Panetta is scheduled to meet with Afghanistan leaders to talk about the shooting. USA Today reports that Panetta will meet with President Hamid Karzai, as well as Afghan defense officials and provincial leaders. The meetings will likely touch on the recent shootings, as well as America’s troop withdrawl.

During his speech today, Panetta said:

“We’ll be challenged by our enemy. We’ll be challenged by ourselves. We’ll be challenged by the hell of war itself. But none of that, none of that, must ever deter us from the mission that we must achieve. As tragic as these acts of violence have been, they do not define the relationship between the coalition and Afghan forces and the Afghan people.”