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Panetta: Taliban Won't Turn Petraeus Story Into Propaganda


Panetta Expects Taliban Won't Turn Petraeus's Adultery Into Propaganda

By Richard S. Ehrlich

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Afghanistan's Taliban "obviously" could "explore" the possibility of turning Gen. David Patraeus's adultery into anti-American propaganda, but "there are probably other issues that they could focus on, besides the Petraeus matter," U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday (November 15).

Asked if he was concerned about the Taliban creating propaganda from the extramarital affair by former CIA director Gen. Petraeus, who previously led U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, Mr. Panetta replied:

"Obviously, you are never quite sure what the Taliban may or may not use for propaganda purposes, to try to advance their cause.

"Obviously, this is a possible area for them to explore but I think frankly that, you know, that if they want to have an impact, there are probably other issues that they could focus on, besides the Petraeus matter," Mr. Panetta said.

The Taliban consider adultery as a violation of Islam's sharia law, punishable by death.

Afghanistan's Taliban publicly executed suspect men and women, including death by stoning, during their 1996-2001 regime which was toppled by a U.S. invasion.

During the past decade, the Taliban executed several adulterous people after staging brief tribunals in rebel-held territory.

Under U.S. military law, adultery is punishable by a possible court martial.

Gen. Petraeus publicly admitted having an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, and resigned on Nov. 9 as CIA director.

In Bangkok, Mr. Panetta was speaking at a news conference while flanked by his Thai counterpart, Defense Minister Air Chief Marshal Sukumpol Suwanatat.

They signed a "2012 Joint Vision Statement for the Thai-U.S. Defense Alliance," to update a 1962 U.S.-Thailand statement describing their security relationship.

Mr. Panetta had arrived earlier in the day from Australia on a regional week-long tour.

After Bangkok, he planned to go to neighboring Cambodia.

Mr. Panetta was asked by another reporter if he was concerned that other people who worked for him might have been targeted by Mrs. Broadwell, who reportedly sent e-mails about her female rival, Jill Kelley, to other unidentified people.

"I am not aware of any others that could be involved in this issue at the present time," said the bespectacled Mr. Panetta who wore a dark suit.

Mr. Panetta also remarked about potentially scandalous e-mail sent to and from Gen. John Allen to the Florida-based socialite Mrs. Kelley.

Gen. Allen became the top commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan after Gen. Petraeus left that position to direct the CIA in the summer of 2011.

After Mr. Panetta was told about the e-mails between Gen. Allen and Mrs. Kelley, "I thought it was important to refer it to the Defense Department's inspector general, in order to determine what the facts are here," Mr. Panetta said, concerning the Marine four-star general's case.

"What I don't want to do is to try to characterize those [e-mail] communications, because I think I don't want to do anything that will impact on their [the inspector general's] ability to conduct an objective review of what was contained in those e-mails," he said.

"I don't think anybody ought to jump to any conclusions as to where any of this will lead. But I do think it is important for the inspector general to conduct this review, so that we can get to the facts and determine what exactly happened here," Mr. Panetta said.

In their "Joint Vision Statement," the U.S. and Thailand said they would cooperate in "the Asia-Pacific region" to provide security and also "open access by all to shared maritime, space, and cyber domains".

"The United States supports Thai defense modernization and training requirements, including through the sale of U.S. defense equipment, Excess Defense Article transfers, Foreign Military Financing," and other assistance, their statement said.

It highlighted Thailand's 2004 designation as "a major non-NATO ally of the United States".

Their statement cited Bangkok for allowing the Pentagon to annually stage, on Thai territory, "Cobra Gold, the world's largest unilateral military exercise and premier training event in Asia."

*****

Richard S. Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist from San Francisco, California, reporting news from Asia since 1978, and recipient of Columbia University's Foreign Correspondent's Award. He is a co-author of three non-fiction books about Thailand, including "Hello My Big Big Honey!" Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews; 60 Stories of Royal Lineage; and Chronicle of Thailand: Headline News Since 1946. Mr. Ehrlich also contributed to the final chapter, Ceremonies and Regalia, in a new book titled King Bhumibol Adulyadej, A Life's Work: Thailand's Monarchy in Perspective.

His websites are

http://asia-correspondent.tumblr.com

http://www.flickr.com/photos/animists/sets

http://www.amazon.com/Hello-My-Big-Honey-ebook/dp/B009ESEGY0


(Copyright 2012 Richard S Ehrlich)

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