President Obama: ‘No Rush For Afghan Exit After Killings’

US President Barack Obama promised that international forces will not “rush for the exits” in Afghanistan, after an American soldier was accused of murdering 16 civilians.

The President said that foreign troops must be withdrawn in a responsible way. Photo: LeStudio1.com/Flickr

In an interview on Monday Mr Obama revealed that the Afghan massacre would not change strategy or plans for keeping troops, writes BBC.

“It’s important for us to make sure that we get out in responsible way, so that we don’t end up having to go back in,” Obama said. “But what we don’t want to do, is to do it in a way that is just a rush for the exits.”

He went on: “We have got hundreds of advisers in civilian areas as well, we have got huge amounts of equipment that have to be moved out. We have got to make sure that the Afghans can protect their borders to prevent Al-Qaeda coming back.”

Obama added that the killings in Kandahar province can’t be compared with the infamous My Lai massacre in Vietnam in which several US troops killed villagers and was seen as a turning point in that war.

“Obviously what happened this weekend is absolutely heartbreaking and tragic, and I expressed directly to [Afghan] President [Hamid] Karzai how the American people feel any time innocent civilians, especially children are killed and for it to happen in this kind of terrible way I think we all are concerned about,” Mr. Obama told reporters.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told CBS News the United States should leave Afghanistan as quickly as possible.

“My feeling is that we should leave. I think as fast as we can with safety. I think the possibility of us changing Afghan culture is virtually zero,” Gingrich said.

The accused U.S. Army sergeant walked off his base in the southern province of Kandahar in the middle of night and gunned down at least 16 villagers, mostly women and children.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta says the soldier could face the death penalty, if proved guilty. Panetta also revealed that the intention was to try the case in a US military court.

Asked whether the soldier, who gave himself up, had confessed to the alleged crimes, the US defence secretary said: “I suspect that that was the case.”

Panetta kept on talking: “War is hell. These kinds of events and incidents are going to take place, they’ve taken place in any war. They’re terrible events. And this is not the first of those events, and it probably won’t be the last. But we cannot allow these events to undermine our strategy or the mission that we’re involved in.”

A few days before Sunday’s incident, Kabul and Washington had made significant progress in negotiations on a Strategic Partnership Agreement that would allow American advisers to stay in Afghanistan after foreign troops leave the country by the end of 2014.

However, securing a full deal may be far more difficult now after the shooting spree in the southern province of Kandahar, the Taliban heartland.

“This could delay the signing of the Strategic Partnership Agreement,” an Afghan government official told reporters.

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