Gates: US military to stay in Afghanistan

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is on a surprise visit to Afghanistan, says the American military should stay in the conflict-riddled country despite the rising human costs.

“Obviously it would be a small fraction of the presence that we have today, but I think we’re willing to do that,” AP quoted Gates as saying in a speech before a group of US troops at Bagram air field, which is the headquarters for US-led forces in eastern Afghanistan.

The Pentagon chief flew into Kabul on Monday to assess the US-led war amid tensions with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over the increasing number of civilian deaths in the country.

“The civilian casualties are a main cause of worsening the relationship between Afghanistan and the US,” a statement from the Afghan presidency quoted Karzai as saying on Sunday.

Gates also plans to hold talks with Karzai as well as top US commander General David Petraeus.

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