Is somebody trying to send Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey a message? The C-17 aircraft that carried Dempsey to Afghanistan was hit by Taliban mortar fire as it sat on the ramp at Bagram airbase overnight at about 2 AM local time on Aug. 21. ISAF and DoD statements indicated that Dempsey was not anywhere near the aircraft at the time, though two aircraft maintainers who were working nearby were wounded by shrapnel. A NATO helicopter was also hit by mortar fire at about the same time.
ISAF and DoD spokesmen were quick to say that it was mere luck that a Taliban mortar shell came so close to Dempsey's plane. "He was nowhere near the aircraft. We think it was a lucky shot," NATO spokesman Col. Thomas Collins told Reuters. Press reports indicate that the aircraft suffered some damage to its fuselage and to one engine. Dempsey had to continue his trip to Iraq on a different aircraft.
Dempsey was in Afghanistan to meet with ISAF commander Gen. John Allen and Afghan security officials about the recent spate of so-called green-on-blue attacks. Ten NATO soldiers have died in the past two weeks when Afghans with whom they thought they were allied turned on them. Last week also saw the downing of a U.S. Blackhawk helicopter, claimed by the Taliban, that killed 11 people, including 7 Americans, so things have not been going so well for the U.S. war there.
The attack on Dempsey's plane also came on the heels of a series of statements he's made against any idea of an Israeli attack on Iran. His most recent comment was made when he arrived in Afghanistan Monday.
"Israel sees the Iranian threat more seriously than the U.S. sees it, because a nuclear Iran poses a threat to Israel's very existence," Dempsey said. "You can take two countries, give them the same intelligence and reach two different conclusions. I think that's what's happening here."