President Obama said today he has ordered a full investigation into the weekend shootings in Afghanistan and indicated he will not change plans to have all U.S. troops out of the war-torn country in 2014.
Saying he met yesterday with his top general and ambassador in Afghanistan, Obama said he told President Hamid Karzai that “the United States takes this as seriously as if it was our own citizens and our own children who were murdered.”
“The killing of innocent civilians is outrageous and it’s unacceptable,” Obama said. “It’s not who we are as a country, and it does not represent our military.”
As for the withdrawal plan, Obama noted that 23,000 troops are scheduled to be withdrawn by the end of the summer, on top of 10,000 soldiers withdrawn last year.
During his brief remarks in the White House Rose Garden, Obama did not specifically mention the year 2014. That is when the United States and its allies, including NATO, plan to pull out the remainder of the troops and turn all security operations over to the Afghan government.
Some Obama allies have said the withdrawal process should be accelerated after the weekend shootings in which a U.S. soldier is accused of abandoning his post in southern Afghanistan and gunning down 19 civilians, including children.
In discussing the investigation of those killings, Obama said, “I can assure the American people and the Afghan people that we will follow the facts wherever they lead us.”
“We will make sure that anybody who was involved is held fully accountable with the full force of the law,” Obama said.
Obama said he met yesterday with Gen. John Allen, his top commander in Afghanistan, and Ryan Crocker, his ambassador to Kabul.
The president spoke shortly after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters that he is awaiting details from Allen about the withdrawal of 23,000 U.S. troops.
Panetta, speaking to reporters on a flight to Kyrgyzstan, said there has been no change in plans for the final withdrawal in 2014, despite recent incidents: Not just the killings, but the incidental burning of Qurans on a U.S. military base.
The Quran burning triggered riots in Afghanistan, and there is concerned about renewed violence after the shootings.
There are currently about 90,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
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SOURCE: USA Today