© Pool photo/Scott OlsonDefense Secretary Leon E. Panetta arrived at Forward Operating Base Shukvani, Afghanistan, on Wednesday.
Kabul, Afghanistan - A tense visit to Afghanistan by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta got off to an alarming start on Wednesday when a stolen pickup truck sped onto a ramp alongside a runway at a British military airfield and crashed into a ditch as Mr. Panetta's plane was landing.
Mr. Panetta was not hurt, but Pentagon officials said the Afghan driver emerged from the vehicle in flames.
No explosives were found on the driver, a civilian, or in the truck, the officials said, and the Pentagon was not immediately considering the episode an attack on Mr. Panetta. But it reinforced the lack of security in Afghanistan at the beginning of his two-day visit, the first by a senior member of the Obama administration since an American soldier reportedly killed 16 Afghan civilians
, mostly children and women, in Kandahar Province. The visit had been planned months ago, but took on new urgency after the Sunday massacre.
Mr. Panetta, like President Obama, has denounced the deaths and vowed to bring the killer to justice, a message he was to deliver in person to President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan. The killings have further clouded already strained Afghan-American relations. On Thursday morning, an American official said the suspect had been moved out of Afghanistan to Kuwait. That is likely to further anger Afghans, who called for him to be tried in their country.