Afghan defense minister apologizes for killing of US officers

Afghan Defense Minister Rahim Wardak apologized to U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in a phone call on Saturday for an incident that left two U.S. military officers dead, according to a statement from Pentagon spokesman George Little.

“Secretary Panetta appreciated the call and urged the Afghan government to take decisive action to protect coalition forces and curtail the violence in Afghanistan after a challenging week in the country,” the statement read in part.

On Saturday, NATO officials said two U.S. officers, a colonel and a major, had been shot in the interior ministry of the Afghan capital of Kabul, spurring a recall of coalition forces from the Afghan ministries.

“Secretary Panetta was informed this morning of the murder of two U.S. military officers serving in Kabul,” the Pentagon's statement continued. “This act is unacceptable, and the United States condemns it in the strongest possible terms. The Secretary supports the decision General Allen made to protect our forces by immediately recalling ISAF personnel working in ministries around Kabul.”

On Saturday, President Obama called Gen. John Allen, Commander of U.S. Forces and the NATO International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, to express his condolences and discuss the ongoing violence and troop recall.

“The President thanked General Allen for all of the measures he is taking to protect

our service members and civilians in Afghanistan and to encourage calm,” according to a readout of the call from the White House. “We welcome President Karzai's statement this morning encouraging peaceful expressions, and his call for dialogue and calm.”

According to a BBC report, whoever carried out the shooting had the “highest” security clearances, as the attack took place at “one of the safest” spots in the Afghan capital.

The identity of the dead officers has not been released, and nothing else is known about the circumstances surrounding the shootings.

The incident comes after five days of protests that have left more than 20 people dead. The protests were sparked by the accidental burning of Qurans by U.S. soldiers.

President Obama apologized to Afghan President Hamid Karzai over the “unintentionally mishandled” books. That move has been criticized by some Republicans.