WASHINGTON -- Contradicting his own words, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said Thursday that he didn't mean to criticize NATO allies' when commenting their performance in Afghanistan.
US Secretry of Defense Robert Gates speaks at the 4th IISS Regional Security Summit, in Manama, Dec. 8, 2007. [Xinhua]
At a Pentagon news conference, Gates praised NATO forces for playing "a significant and powerful role "and showing "valor" in Afghanistan.
In contrast, during an interview with the Los Angeles Times published Wednesday, he criticized NATO forces in Afghanistan, saying they do not know how to combat insurgency.
Gates also said the lack of combat ability could be contributing to the rising violence in the fight against the Taliban.
As a result, the NATO allies were outraged.
The Dutch Defense Ministry summoned the US ambassador for an explanation.
British Conservative lawmaker Patrick Mercer said Gates' comments were "outrageous."
Trying to appease the angry allies, Gates changed his tone Thursday, saying he didn't mean to chide the allies or doubt their combat ability.
The episode came amid growing friction between the United States and its NATO allies over the Afghan security situation.
Earlier, NATO allies had blamed inadequate US troop numbers earlier in the war in part for a Taliban resurgence.