PARIS (CBS / AP) — Defense Secretary Ash Carter is promising to resolve a festering conflict over demands that thousands of National Guard soldiers repay enlistment bonuses they were given a decade ago after signing up to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Pentagon demanded the money back after audits revealed overpayments by the California National Guard under pressure to fill ranks and hit enlistment goals.

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Carter was asked about the matter during a news conference Tuesday in Paris.

He said the issue is complex and is being handled by the deputy secretary of defense, Robert Work. Carter said the issue touches on a core principle, namely, that all who volunteer to serve in the military deserve gratitude and respect. He did not say how he believes the bonus repayment problem can be solved.

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