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Afghan rockets damage US general’s plane

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An insurgent rocket attack damaged the plane of the top U.S. military general as it sat parked at a coalition base in Afghanistan on Tuesday, dealing another blow to the image of progress in building a stable country as foreign forces work to wind down the 10-year-old war.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the two rockets that landed near the C-17 transport plane that U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flew into Bagram Air Field north of Kabul on a day earlier. The claim was an attempt by the insurgents to score more propaganda points in what has been a deadly few weeks for the international coalition in Afghanistan.

Jamie Graybeal, a spokesman for the U.S. military and the international coalition, said Dempsey was in his staff quarters when the two rockets landed and was unhurt in the attack. But the damage to the plane forced Dempsey to use another aircraft for his flight from Bagram to Iraq on Tuesday.

Two aircraft maintenance workers were lightly wounded by shrapnel, and a nearby helicopter was damaged, Graybeal said.

Dempsey was in Afghanistan for talks with military leaders about the war as well as a disturbing rash of killings of U.S. military trainers by their Afghan partners or militants dressed in Afghan uniform.

Tuesday’s insurgent attack was the second this year to come uncomfortably close to a high-level U.S. official visiting Afghanistan.

In March, an attacker tried to ram a car into a delegation waiting to greet U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at Bastion Air Field in southern Afghanistan as his C-17 taxied toward the landing ramp. U.S. defense officials said Panetta was never in any danger, but if the attacker had waited just a few more minutes, Panetta’s plane would have been at the ramp.

Another attack, this time at the entrance of Bagram, struck in 2007 as then-Vice President Dick Cheney visited Afghanistan. The suicide attacker did not penetrate the gates of the base but at least 23 people were killed in the blast.

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