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US: Military committed to Afghan strategy

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House says recent deadly violence against U.S. forces in Afghanistan won't speed up U.S. plans to withdraw troops over the next two years.

White House press secretary Jay Carney calls the killings of two U.S. officers inside their office at the Afghan interior ministry horrific. He also acknowledged a high number of U.S. and NATO deaths at the hands of their supposed Afghan military partners this year.

But Carney echoed Pentagon spokesmen on Monday in insisting that the war strategy is on track and will not be deterred by the deaths and anti-American riots.

The violence was sparked by the mistaken U.S. burning of Qurans at a military base last week.

Officials conceded, however, that after the killings of two U.S. officers inside the Afghan interior ministry on Saturday, the U.S. is not ready to allow its advisers to return to work at the Afghan offices. NATO, France, Britain and the U.S. pulled their advisers from the ministries after the shootings, which remains unsolved.

Navy Capt. John Kirby, a military spokesman in Kabul, acknowledged that tensions are high, but said the situation may be calming a bit. He said there have been fewer protests in the last two days, and less violence.

About 40 people have been killed in protests and related attacks, including four U.S. soldiers, after NATO troops inadvertently burned several Qurans in a trash fire last week. U.S. officials have apologized for the burning of the books.

Two U.S. military officers were gunned down Saturday in their Interior Ministry office, and nine Afghans were killed Monday when a suicide bomber rammed his car into the gates of a NATO base in eastern Afghanistan.

On Monday, the United Nations also scaled back its operations, moving its international staff from an office in the northern city of Kunduz that was attacked during protests Saturday, the organization said in a statement.

Pentagon press secretary George Little said the U.S. is taking "the long view" and that officials believe that the Afghans are committed to stemming the violence. The important thing, he said, is to sustain the progress that has been made against insurgents in the country.