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Afghan killings: Pentagon under fire

A US Congressman asked the Pentagon on Tuesday to explain why the soldier accused in the massacre of 16 Afghan villagers was sent back into combat after earlier suffering a traumatic brain injury in Iraq, as lawmakers questioned how seriously the military deals with the mental health of troops.

world Updated: Mar 15, 2012 01:31 IST

A US Congressman asked the Pentagon on Tuesday to explain why the soldier accused in the massacre of 16 Afghan villagers was sent back into combat after earlier suffering a traumatic brain injury in Iraq, as lawmakers questioned how seriously the military deals with the mental health of troops.

The army staff sergeant accused in Sunday’s shooting served three deployments to Iraq before he was sent to Afghanistan last year. The soldier, whose name has not been disclosed publicly, was treated for a traumatic brain injury suffered in a vehicle rollover in 2010 in Iraq, said a US official.

Representative Bill Pascrell, founder of a US congressional task force on brain injuries, wrote to defence secretary Leon Panetta, requesting details of the accused soldier’s injury, diagnosis, and when and how he was returned to combat duty.

“I am trying to find out basically whether there was a premature ‘OK’ on this guy,” Pascrell, a Democrat, said in a telephone interview.

Other lawmakers expressed similar concerns. “I think there are some serious questions out there about whether or not we are taking seriously, within the armed services, the issue of mental health,” said Democratic senator Patty Murray of Washington state.

Nonetheless, Republicans and Democrats alike insisted that the US should stay the course in Afghanistan, sticking to President Barack Obama’s timetable for withdrawing American troops despite the recent massacre of 16 Afghans.

Russian base for US?
Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday that a plan to permit the US and other Nato nations to use a Russian air base in the city of Ulyanovsk on the Volga River will soon be considered by the Russian cabinet.

It will be good for Russia’s security, too, he said.