Obama: Afghanistan Massacre Underscores Need to Withdraw Responsibly
(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama said Monday that the shooting of 16 Afghan villagers, apparently by a U.S. soldier, underscores the need to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Speaking to ABC’s Orlando affiliate, WFTV, the president said the “tragic” incident signals “the importance of us transitioning in accordance with my plan so that Afghans are taking more of the lead for their own security and we can start getting our troops home.”
“We’ve got to do it in a responsible way, reducing our footprint progressively, giving Afghans more and more responsibility, while we keep an eye on going after al Qaeda and making sure that no attacks against our homeland can be launched from that region,” the president said. “That’s going to be my continued focus over the next couple of years.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Monday that the shooting will not impact the timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops because the objectives in Afghanistan have not changed. The U.S. and its NATO allies intend to turn over security control to the Afghans by the end of 2014.
“I do not believe that this incident will change the timetable of a strategy that was designed and is being implemented in a way…to allow for the withdrawal of U.S. forces, to allow for the transfer of lead security authority over to the Afghans,” he said.
The U.S. is expected to reduce its force to about 68,000 by the end of September, down from the roughly 91,000 now in Afghanistan.
Obama called Afghan President Hamid Karzai over the weekend to offer his condolences to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives. “This incident is tragic and shocking, and does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan,” Obama said in a written statement Sunday.
While the investigation is ongoing, the president reiterated to WFTV that “in no way is this representative of the enormous sacrifices that our men and women have made in Afghanistan.”
Asked about the fear of retaliation, the president said, “This has been incredibly dangerous from the start and it’s not going to get any easier over the next few months.”
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