14 Mar 2012

Panetta on surprise visit to Afghanistan

9:53 pm on 14 March 2012

United States Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has arrived on an unannounced two-day visit to Afghanistan, as the US tries to contain fallout from a massacre of 16 Afghan civilians by an American soldier.

Mr Panetta's visit had been scheduled before Monday's shooting rampage.

But it takes on new meaning as political pressure mounts on Afghan and US officials over the unpopular war, now dragging into its eleventh year.

The Defence Secretary is scheduled to hold talks with Afghan leaders including President Hamid Karzai, as well as provincial officials in southern Helmand province during the visit.