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US Defense Chief in Afghanistan to Speak with Troops


U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in Afghanistan to speak with American troops, as the United States prepares to send thousands more to the country.

Gates, who has been on a Middle East tour, landed Wednesday in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

On his way to Afghanistan, Gates told reporters he wants to get a sense from the troops what their needs and challenges are, and to also learn about solutions to problems the troops face.

He also said he will check on Pentagon efforts to improve the U.S. military's intelligence capability in hopes of avoiding civilian casualties.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said U.S.-led coalition warplanes killed dozens of civilians in western Afghanistan this week.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said he will take up the issue in meetings Wednesday with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington.

U.S. and Afghan authorities said they are investigating the airstrikes, which took place during fighting that erupted after Taliban insurgents publicly executed three civilians.

In other news, Afghan officials said five police officers have been killed and two injured in a roadside bomb blast in the central province of Ghazni.

U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered 21,000 additional forces to reinforce the 38,000 U.S. troops already in Afghanistan, where the Taliban-led insurgency is spreading.

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