Panetta: Troop scandals hurt US Afghan mission

By LOLITA C. BALDOR,Associated Press Updated at 2012-05-04 20:01:47 +0000


WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is warning troops that it takes just seconds for misconduct to make headlines and fuel the enemy in Afghanistan.

Military leaders are pushing commanders to improve discipline in the ranks after a series of widely publicized incidents. These include the massacre of 17 Afghan civilians, mistaken burning of Qurans, images of Marines urinating on Afghan insurgents' corpses and photos showing U.S. soldiers posing with Afghan police holding the severed legs of a suicide bomber.

Panetta says wrongdoing by troops can hurt morale, put fellow troops at risk and damage America's standing in the world, even if it is committed by only a small percentage of service members.

Panetta is speaking to soldiers at Fort Benning, Ga.