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Gates: Taliban overreached in Buner

May 7, 2009 at 5:03 PM   |   Comments

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KABUL, Afghanistan, May 7 (UPI) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates Thursday said the Taliban erred by trying to take over the Buner district in Pakistan because it is so close to Islamabad.

Gates, on a whirlwind tour of Afghanistan to meet with U.S. troops, told a Kabul news conference the Taliban decision to move into the area "served as an alarm for the Pakistani government that these violent extremists in the western part of Pakistan are a significant danger to the government of Pakistan."

The Pakistan military currently is attempting to dislodge the Taliban from the area.

"I personally have been very satisfied with the strong response that the Pakistani government and army have taken in response to this," Gates said, according to a Defense Department release. "I think there is very little chance of the Taliban in Pakistan achieving a level of success that will give them access to Pakistan's nuclear weapons."

Gates visited two remote Afghan outposts as well as facilities in Kandahar to talk with troops.

"I feel a very deep, personal responsibility to each and every one of you," Gates told troops at Camp Leatherneck. "My job, it seems to me, is to get you what you need to be successful in your mission, and to do everything possible to get you home safely."

Gates also echoed statements made Wednesday by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding civilian casualties in Afghanistan.

"The United States and coalition partners do everything we can to avoid civilian casualties," Gates said.

"We regret any -- even one -- innocent civilian casualty, and will make whatever amends are necessary."

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