"Nor could he explain why the Afghan was on fire"

'All I know is, I was told to get the weapons out,' he said. Asked why, he replied, 'Somebody got itchy, that’s all I’ve got to say. Somebody got itchy; we just adjust.'

Normally, American forces in Afghanistan keep their weapons with them when the defense secretary visits and speaks to them. The Afghans in the tent were not armed to begin with, as is typical.

Later, American officials said that the top commander in Helmand, Maj. Gen. Mark Gurganus, had decided on Tuesday that no one would be armed while Mr. Panetta spoke to them, but the word did not reach those in charge in the tent until shortly before Mr. Panetta was due to arrive.

Read More | "Panetta Is Safe After Breach Near His Plane at Afghan Base" | Elisabeth Bumiller | ?The New York Times