The US and its allies must reduce the number of civilians killed in the hunt for the Taliban in Afghanistan, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday. He called the civilian deaths "one of our greatest strategic vulnerabilities."
"Every civilian casualty, however caused, is a defeat for us and a setback for the Afghan government," Gates told reporters.
Civilian casualties have been a source of tension between the Afghan government and US and NATO troops. President Hamid Karzai has pleaded with US officials to reduce the number of civilians dying as a result of the fighting.
American officials say that Taliban militants purposely try to cause civilian deaths that can be blamed on US forces in order to turn ordinary Afghans against the international military effort.