By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2012 - After learning this morning of the murders of two U.S. military officers serving in Kabul, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta backed the decision to recall International Security Assistance Force-Afghanistan personnel working in ministries there, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today.
"This act is unacceptable and the United States condemns it in the strongest possible terms," Little said.
Initial reports indicate that an individual turned his weapon against ISAF service members in Kabul City, Afghanistan, killing two service members, according to an ISAF Joint Command statement.
It is ISAF policy to defer casualty identification procedures to the relevant national authorities.
In Kabul, ISAF Commander Marine Corps. Gen. John R. Allen made the decision to protect forces by instituting the recall.
"I condemn today's attack at the Afghan Ministry of Interior that killed two of our coalition officers, and my thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of the brave individuals lost today," Allen said in the statement.
Earlier today, Little said, Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak offered condolences in a phone call with Panetta and apologized for the incident.
"Secretary Panetta appreciated the call and urged the Afghan government to take decisive action to protect coalition forces and curtail the violence in Afghanistan after a challenging week in the country," Little said.
Wardak told Panetta that Afghan President Hamid Karzai was assembling religious leaders, parliamentarians, justices of the Supreme Court and other senior Afghan officials to take urgent steps to take such action, Little added.
In Kabul, Allen met with Afghan Interior Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, who offered condolences to the families and apologies. The minister pledged his complete cooperation in investigating the tragedy and in taking stronger measures to protect ISAF personnel.
The general said an investigation is under way and officials will pursue all leads to find the person responsible for this attack.
"The perpetrator of this attack is a coward whose actions will not go unanswered," he said.
In an interview today from Kabul, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby said neither the attack nor the personnel recall would deter the United States from its overarching mission in Afghanistan.
"All of the partnership and the training we're conducting with Afghan security forces continues," he said. "The very important work we are doing throughout the country in Afghanistan continues."
The nation remains committed to a partnership with Afghanistan, Allen said, and to reaching "our common goal of a peaceful, stable and secure Afghanistan in the near future."
Leon E. Panetta
Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen
Navy Capt. John Kirby
Sean P Eagan
Former Chairman American Cold War Veterans