US minister apologises for Afghan upset

The US defence minister Robert Gates has apologised to his Dutch counterpart Eimert van Middelkoop for the upset caused by his interview in the Los Angeles Times in which he criticised NATO troops in southern Afghanistan.

The Netherlands has around 1,600 soldiers in the region.
Speaking on the phone on Thursday evening, Gates told Van Middelkoop that it was not his intention at all to criticise specific NATO allies and that he regrets the confusion caused by the article, a spokesman for the Dutch defence department told ANP news service.
Gates added that he greatly valued Dutch efforts in the region, reports ANP. The US minister said his aim had been to get more attention for the NATO teams that train military personnel for missions in Afghanistan.
Van Middelkoop told Gates that he had not doubted that the incident was base on a misunderstanding, said ANP.

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