(WASHINGTON) — The Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate both said Tuesday they don’t believe the shooting rampage this weekend in Kandahar should affect the timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
“I think we should stick by the drawdown that we have now,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters Tuesday. “I support Secretary Panetta, who’s saying that they’re going to do everything they can to resolve the issue and have the Afghan people understand that that’s not America. And I think that we should stick by what we have.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., echoed Reid’s statement when he was asked later.
“I support the policy the administration has laid out to move toward a transition over the next couple of years,” McConnell said. “The president has a plan to transition this mission over to the Afghan army over the next couple of years. I know it’s been a very challenging period, but I think we ought to stick with the plan that’s been laid out by the administration.”
On Sunday an Army staff sergeant allegedly went on a rampage, killing 16 Afghans as they slept in their homes. The suspect was serving on his fourth combat deployment in 10 years, the first three in Iraq. He was on his first tour in Afghanistan, where he’d been since December.
An official told ABC News that the soldier has suffered a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the past, either from hitting his head on the hatch of a vehicle or in a car accident. He went through the advanced TBI treatment at Fort Lewis and was deemed to be fine.
President Obama, in an interview with ABC station KABC-TV in Los Angeles this week, said it’s important not to “rush for the exits” in Afghanistan following this weekend’s massacre, and the White House has said the incident will not change the timetable for the withdrawal strategy in Afghanistan.
Before this weekend’s incident there was a movement brewing in the Senate, led by Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., to pressure Obama to speed up the withdrawal. More than 20 senators, including two Republicans — Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah — signed a letter expressing this to Obama last week.
“We simply cannot have more years of elevated troop levels in Afghanistan,” the letter says. “It is time to bring our troops home from Afghanistan.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Stephanie Halasz, Jason Hanna and Livia Borghese, CNN
Marisa Russell, CNN