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U.S. President Barack Obama remembered the 14 Americans killed on Monday in two helicopter crashes in Afghanistan, saying they gave their lives to protect their country. Word of their deaths reached Washington in the midst of a detailed White House review of the president's Afghanistan war strategy.
It was one of the deadliest days for Americans in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
Among the victims, 11 troops and three civilians who worked at the American embassy in Kabul.
President Obama said the nation mourns their passing.
"They were willing to risk their lives, in this case, to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for al-Qaida and its extremist allies. And today, they gave their lives, and their last full measure of devotion, to protect ours," Mr. Obama said.
The comments came in a brief address to military personnel and their families at a Navy base in Florida. The president told the audience at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville that the United States has an obligation to its latest war dead.
"Now, it is our duty as a nation to keep their memory alive in our hearts and to carry on their work - to take care of their families, to keep the country safe, to stand up for the values we hold dear and the freedom they defended," Mr. Obama said.
The president traveled to Jacksonville after another closed door meeting at the White House with top advisers on Afghanistan.
He took note of the strategy review in his remarks at the Naval base. And he made a vow to U.S. military members.
"I will never rush the solemn decision of sending you into harm's way. I won't risk your lives unless it is absolutely necessary. And if it is necessary, we will back you up to the hilt, because you deserve the strategy, the clear mission, the defined goals and the equipment and support you need to get the job done," Mr. Obama said.
The president is considering several options for his revised Afghanistan strategy, including a substantial increase in the number of troops deployed.
Mr. Obama has said he intends to reach a decision in the coming weeks. But a few days ago, he told NBC television that he might not make an announcement until after the Afghan presidential run-off election scheduled for November 7.