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Gates Offers Personal Regrets for Afghan Civilian Casualties

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 17, 2008 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today offered Afghan President Hamid Karzai condolences and his personal regrets for the recent loss of innocent lives as a result of coalition air strikes.

"While no military has ever done more to prevent civilian casualties, it is clear that we have to work even harder," the secretary said during a news conference at the American embassy here. The secretary met with Karzai and other defense leaders at the Rose Palace.

An air strike in Sindand, a town in Herat province, allegedly killed large numbers of innocent Afghans. U.S. Central Command is investigating the allegations.

Gates will receive a detailed briefing about U.S. close-air support in Afghanistan as well as details of the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance programs in the country. He also will meet with pilots, ground crewmen and close-air support specialists at Bagram Airfield.

Gates told Karzai the coalition will improve. "You have my word that we will do everything in our power to find new and better ways to target our enemies while protecting the good people of Afghanistan," he said.

Gates told reporters that more American ground forces will deploy to help the Afghan security forces protect the population from an enemy that indiscriminately targets civilians. A Marine unit will arrive in November to continue training the Afghan police, and the 10th Mountain Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team will arrive beginning in January for duty in Regional Command East.

Gates also spoke of additional allied troop contributions.

"By this time next year, the coalition will have added 25,000 additional troops since 2006," he said. "This allows us, alongside the Afghan national security forces, to go after more extremists in their hideouts and to hold on to our gains."

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Biographies:
Robert M. Gates

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