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Secretary Gates Remarks ar Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
September 17, 2008
        Secretary Gates: (joined in progress) used here to try and avoid innocent civilian casualties and at the same time take care of enemies of the Afghan people and Coalition. These people clearly take this seriously. You saw on the slides the importance they attach to avoid hurting innocent bystanders.
 
        As I told President Karzai this morning, we're very concerned about this. It's a very high priority for us not to hurt innocent people, and we've worked at it hard, and we're going to work at it even harder. We'll take another look at it and see if there's even more we can do to limit the innocent folks who get killed when we're going after our enemies.
 
       So I really appreciate the professionalism of these young men and women, what they bring to this and what they're contributing to the fight against Afghanistan's enemies. Thank you.
 
       Q: Mr. Secretary, if I could. Given the rising anger of the Afghanistan people over civilian casualties, how big a risk is that anger to the American mission here?
 
       Secretary Gates: Well, I -- President Karzai told me this morning that the Afghan people still very much believe that we are here to help them overcome their enemies, and they're still very friendly toward the United States.
 
        I think the key for us is on those rare occassions when we do make a mistake, when there is an error, is to apologize quickly, to compensate the victims quickly and then carry out the investigation. And I think that that's the approach that we've had in Iraq, and I think we need to move to that here so that people know most of all that we care about them and that we have very deep regret when there is an accident, and we're sorry for that, and we're going to make amends as quickly as possible.
 
        So I think a bit of a change of approach in terms of how we deal with these incidents when they occur, these tragedies, will help persuade the Afghan people that these are accidents and we're trying to do the best mainly to go after their enemies because we share the same enemy.
 
        Staff: Thanks so much.
 
        Q: Thank you Mr. Secretary.