"I would like to begin by joining General Petreaus in offering my personal apology for the accidental killing of 9 afghans boys killed by coalition forces last week. This breaks our hearts," Gates said standing beside Karzai at a press conference. “Not only is their loss a tragedy for their families, it is a setback for our relationship with the afghan people whose security is our chief concern."
Karzai was then asked by a reporter if he accepted the Secretary's apology, seeing as he had just rejected an apology by Gen. David Petraeus just hours before.
"Civilian casualties is an issue that has been for a long time at the heart of some of the tensions in an otherwise very healthy relationship between the two countries," Karzai said. "Secretary Gates is an honored friend of Afghanistan and I trust him fully when he says he's sorry." "We take the apology with respect," he added.
Karzai then invited Gates to dinner at the country’s presidential palace.
Gates is in the country on a surprise visit to talk about the start of the drawdown of U.S. forces later this year and the transition to Afghan control. Gates announced he was sending a team next week to begin negotiating with the Afghan government for U.S. troops to stay beyond 2014, if the Afghans agree.
Civilian casualties have been a persistent problem in U.S.-Afghan relations. The public uproar here over the most recent killings, reportedly of boys gathering firewood who were mistaken for insurgent fighters by the crew of a helicopter gunship makes Gates’ mission more difficult.
Meanwhile, questions about the possibility of the U.S. intervening in the Libyan civil war followed Gates on his visit here. Petraeus greeted Gates on the tarmac in Kabul with a joke about the mounting tensions in the North African country not intended for the camera crews nearby.
As Petraeus shook Gates’ hand, the general could be heard saying, "Well I think you have a bigger plane than normal, you're gonna launch some attacks on Libya or something?
To which Gates laughed and replied, "Yeah, exactly."
Gates waved off the suggestion adding in an exclusive interview with FOX News that "I dont think anybody has any intention of putting any ground forces in Libya."
Even if intended to be light-hearted, the remarks won't be well received in Washington. Secretary Gates and other defense leaders have made clear that the Pentagon is presenting the White House with a range of military options.
"We will provide him with that full range of options, Gates said. “We will also provide him with our judgment as to likelihood of success and also what the consequences might be."
Over the weekend Washington continued a heated debate over feasibility and need for establishing a “no-fly zone” over Libya.
Sen. John Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Sunday the U.S. and its allies should consider bombing the country's airports and runways.
White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, responded later that day by suggesting it's a bigger commitment than some proponents imagine.
"Lots of people throw around phrases of `no-fly zone' and they talk about it as though it's just a game, a video game or something. Some people who throw that line out have no idea what they're talking about," Daley said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Pentagon Spokesman Col. Dave Lapan pointed out Monday that bombing runways does not eliminate Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddaffi's ability to use helicopters.
"There are other ways around that. In fact, that's what we saw in the no-fly zone in Iraq,” Lapan said in reference to a “no-fly zone” established over Iraq after the first Gulf War in 1991. “Saddam Hussein was able to attack the Shia in the south."
- Why is Robert Gates making a surprise visit to Afghanistan?US Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Afghanistan for a surprise visit Monday at a critical time for war strategists in the White House. As heavy fighting is expected to resume as the weather improves, Mr. Gates will likely be assessing the scope of the troop drawdown scheduled to begin this July. Defense officials, however, have been quick to insist that this is not a decisionmaking trip.The Christian Science Monitor via Yahoo! News - Mar 07 09:20am
- Gates in Afghanistan to weigh pullout planKABUL, Afghanistan, March 7 (UPI) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told soldiers in Afghanistan Monday shorter deployments aren't likely soon but should be spaced further apart.UPI - Mar 07 04:53am
- Defense Secretary Gates lands in AfghanistanU.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Afghanistan on Monday at a time of increased strain between Kabul and its Western backers and with important security transition milestones looming.Reuters via Yahoo! News - Mar 06 09:24pm
- News Stories
- Afghanistan rejects US apology over boys' deathsAfghanistan's president has rejected a US apology for the mistaken killing of nine Afghan boys in a Nato air attack and said civilian casualties are no longer acceptable. read moreOtago Daily Times - Mar 06 10:38am
- Afghanistan's Korengal ValleyYesterday was Veteran's Day (or Armistice or Remembrance Day, depending on where you live), a day set aside to honor those who have served in the military. Today, on the day after, it seems appropriate to share some photographs of U.S. soldiers currently in the thick of war in Afghanistan. Getty Images photographer John Moore spent some time recently in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley, near the ...Boston Globe - Mar 07 09:00am
- Burial for West Point grad killed in AfghanistanFamily, friends and scores of comrades bid their final goodbyes to 24-year-old 1st Lt. Daren Hidalgo on Monday on the grounds of the storied academy where he, his father and an older brother trained to become Army officers.AP via Yahoo! News - Mar 07 02:37pm
- Bing West strafes U.S. Afghanistan strategy in 'The Wrong War' - The Cleveland Plain Dealer
- West Point grad killed in Afghanistan buried - Mid-Hudson News
- Burial Service Held For Waukesha Soldier Killed In Afghanistan - WISC-TV Madison
- all 12 news articles…
- Pentagon chief gets look at US military progress in southern AfghanistanCOMBAT OUTPOST KOWALL, Afghanistan - U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates got a first-hand look Tuesday at U.S. military progress in the most hotly contested areas of southern Afghanistan.The Canadian Press via Yahoo! Canada News - 1 hour, 23 minutes ago
- In Afghanistan, U.S. shifts strategy on women's rights as it eyes wider prioritiesWhen the U.S. Agency for International Development sought bids last March for a $140 million land reform program in Afghanistan, it insisted that the winning contractor meet specific goals to promote women's rights: The number of deeds granting women title had to increase by 50 percent; there wou...Washington Post - Mar 05 09:18pm
- Afghanistan deputy minister: expansion of economic ties with Iran importantAfghan Deputy Commerce and Industry Minister Mohammad Sharif Sharifi saidAfghanistan attaches great importance to expanding economic and trade relations with Iran, the local satellite Press TV reported on Monday.People's Daily - Mar 07 05:08pm
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