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American Forces Press Service

Carter Offers Apologies to Afghan Leaders

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

KABUL, Afghanistan, Feb. 22, 2012 – Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter today joined other senior officials in condemning the improper disposal of religious materials, including Qurans, at Bagram Airfield.

Carter arrived here yesterday to meet with Afghan and International Security Assistance Force officials for the first time since he took the Pentagon’s No. 2 post in October.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, ISAF commander, offered apologies yesterday for the incident, and all ISAF personnel now will receive training on handling religious materials.

Carter said the mishandling was inadvertent, but shouldn’t have happened.

“It’s inexcusable -- an act of ignorance -- and it’s very unfortunate because it has unfortunate consequences and gives people a chance to misunderstand what we’re all doing here,” he said.

In meetings today with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and members of the Afghan parliament, Carter offered his personal apologies for the incident. In each meeting, the deputy defense secretary made it clear these were “ignorant” actions that were unacceptable.

He also pledged his full support for a joint Afghan-ISAF investigation into the incident, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby said.

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