News / Asia

Gates Apologizes for Afghan Civilian Deaths

comments came during joint press briefing Monday in Kabul with Afghan President Karzai, who accepted the apology

General Petraeus, Commander of ISAF Afghanistan, chats with US Defense Secretary Gates upon Gates' arrival in Kabul, March 7, 2011
General Petraeus, Commander of ISAF Afghanistan, chats with US Defense Secretary Gates upon Gates' arrival in Kabul, March 7, 2011

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the United States is in a good position to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in July, but that there will be a continued U.S. presence in the country for years to come.  At a news conference in Kabul, Gates also apologized for recent civilian deaths caused by coalition forces.

Secretary Gates says coalition and Afghan troops have worked hard during the winter to expand security zones in several parts of the country, including the Taliban heartland in the south. He says Afghan President Hamid Karzai will soon announce the first areas where Afghan troops will take responsibility for security, and that will create the structure for the July troop reduction President Barack Obama promised when he approved the surge of forces to Afghanistan over a year ago.

“While no decisions on numbers have been made, in my view we will be well-positioned to begin drawing down some U.S. and coalition forces this July, even as we redeploy others to different parts of the country,” he said.

U.S. officials have repeatedly said the drawdown will be gradual and based on security conditions, but Gates said U.S. troop totals, now about 150,000, will remain high well after July.  He says the United States is seeking a long-term strategic partnership with Afghanistan, even after the scheduled transfer of full security authority at the end of 2014.

“The United States is open to having some presence here in terms of training and assistance, perhaps making use of facilities made available to us by the Afghan government for those purposes. We have no interest in permanent bases, but if the Afghans want us here, we are certainly prepared to contemplate that,” Gates said.

Gates said negotiations on the long-term relationship will begin next week, with a visit here by an American delegation.

The secretary also apologized for civilian deaths caused by U.S. Forces in recent days. Nine Afghan boys were killed in a U.S. airstrike in the eastern province of Kunar last week. The pilots mistook the boys for insurgents. “This breaks our heart. Not only is their loss a tragedy for the families, it is a setback for our relationship with the Afghan people, whose security is our chief concern,” he said.

Gates said more than 80 percent of the civilian casualties in the Afghan war are caused by insurgents. U.S. officials frequently note that the insurgents target civilians, while deaths caused by coalition forces are accidents that they work hard to avoid.

President Karzai accepted Gates' apology but repeated his insistence that coalition forces bring civilian casualty figures to zero.

You May Like

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid