WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says letting women serve in combat roles will strengthen the military’s ability to win wars.

Panetta says the military is more capable and more powerful when it is open to, quote, “all of the diverse strengths of the American people.”

Panetta spoke Thursday at a Pentagon ceremony in remembrance of Martin Luther King, just hours before a news conference at which he plans to announce an end to the traditional exclusion of women from combat roles in the U.S. military.

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