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U.S. officer visits troops, gives thanks

The commander of NATO forces in eastern Afghanistan spent Christmas Eve visiting U.S. troops Tuesday at bases across the mountainous region to bring them holiday greetings and gifts for a few lucky soldiers.

Maj. Gen. James C. McConville, who commands troops in the volatile east near the Pakistani border, told troops that they were "bringing a gift to the Afghan people - you've given them an opportunity. Now it's up to them to take it."

McConville thanked the troops and told them that "a lot of Americans will wake up tomorrow and have a peaceful day, and that's thanks to you." The general also delivered presents in the form of special Army coins to troops who'd completed three or more deployments.

The U.S.-led NATO coalition is rapidly drawing down its numbers in Afghanistan ahead of the end of its mission next year. - AP