KABUL (Agencies) - The United States and other countries helping to fight extremists dont dare turn their backs on Afghanistan, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Friday, wrapping up a short visit. The September 11, 2001 attacks on the US were a consequence of the neglect of Afghanistan after Washington and others helped Afghan fighters end the Soviet occupation, Gates told US troops. We helped these people throw the Soviets out 20 years ago, he said in the strategic province of Wardak, near Kabul, in a final meeting with US troops before heading back to Washington. Then we neglected Afghanistan and we paid the consequences for it in 2001. We wont do that again. You are here to make sure we dont do that again, he told about 100 soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division. Four years after the Soviets left, Al-Qaeda - which used Afghanistan for training camps - staged its first attack on the US with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre, Gates later told reporters. If there is a lesson for Americans and the international community, it is that we dont dare turn our backs on Afghanistan, said Gates, who was involved in the anti-Soviet effort during his years at the CIA. This (new strategy) will work, if we stay engaged, Gates said. Gates said he was buoyed by talks he held on Friday with local government and tribal leaders from the Wardak area. The leaders touted an experimental programme recently launched in the area with guards chosen by community leaders protecting public buildings and mosques in support of the police and provincial authorities. Actually the conversations that I had this morning are some of the most encouraging that Ive had, said Gates. He also said he was reassured that recent decisions to provide more helicopters for medical evacuations and improved armoured vehicles had helped save the lives of American troops. The Pentagon is so huge you never know where you have an impact, he said. The US Defence Chiefs visit coincided with public anger over US-led airstrikes in western Afghanistan that local police say killed dozens of civilians. Local media reported that a US probe has found its troops were responsible for the deaths of Afghan villagers in airstrikes on Tuesday. The New York Times and CNN both said a preliminary investigation into the incidents has shown US aerial bombardments resulted in the deaths of civilians in western Afghanistan. Afghan police have claimed more than 100 people - about 70 of them civilians - were killed in the strikes and ground fighting in Farah provinces Bala Buluk district overnight on Monday-Tuesday. Up to 50 people were killed in the US airstrikes on buildings frequented by insurgents, a senior US military official told CNN on Friday. The US military on Friday said accusations that their airstrikes had killed more than 100 people including dozens of civilians were grossly exaggerated, as investigators returned from the stricken area. The US military and Afghan Defence and Interior Ministry teams are jointly investigating the incident. Talking to AFP, US military spokesman Col Greg Julian refused to comment on reports from Washington citing US officials saying investigations had found that US troops were responsible for the deaths of villagers in the airstrikes. There were civilian casualties no doubt, he said. But the conclusion from the investigation has not been reached, and its inappropriate to indicate one way or the other how they were caused. A member of the Farah council, Abdul Basir Khair Khowa, told AFP that he had been to the area and was told by locals that 147 civilians, whose names he had recorded, were killed.