Karzai accepts Gates’ apology over deaths of Afghan children in NATO air strike

March 8th, 2011 - 2:48 pm ICT by ANI  

Barack Obama Kabul, Mar 8 (ANI): Afghan President Hamid Karzai has accepted an apology of US Defence Secretary Robert Gates for the deaths of nine children in a NATO air strike, a day after he had rejected the regrets of the top US commander in Afghanistan over the same issue.

Gates made his apology standing beside Karzai during an unannounced visit to Kabul, where he is reportedly discussing the future of US involvement in the war-torn country.

“I would like to begin by joining General Petreaus in offering my personal apology for the accidental killing of nine Afghans boys killed by coalition forces last week. This breaks our hearts. 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,” Fox News quoted Gates, as saying.

On being asked if he had accepted Gates’ apology, Karzai said: “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. Secretary Gates is an honoured friend of Afghanistan and I trust him fully when he says he’s sorry. We take the apology with respect.”

Earlier, US President Barack Obama had also apologised for the killings of the boys, describing it as a “tragic accident”. He also added that civilian deaths were the main cause of a souring relationship between Kabul and Washington.

On Sunday, hundreds of Afghans had rallied to protest against the killings, and condemned both NATO and the Taliban for killing civilians.

During the latest visit, Gates also said that the United States is “well-positioned” to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in July. However, did not indicate how many of the 97,000 US forces in the country would be withdrawn.

Last Monday, he had told troops at Bagram airbase that both the US and Afghan governments agree that the US should remain involved even after 2014, when the withdrawal of troops is scheduled to be completed.

“Obviously it would be a small fraction of the presence that we have today, but I think we’re willing to do that,” he had said. (ANI)

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