National News

White House: No change in Afghan strategy

Posted March 12, 2012
Updated March 13, 2012

— The Obama administration said Monday the war strategy in Afghanistan remains intact despite the mass killing of Afghan civilians on Sunday, allegedly by an American soldier.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the episode "inexplicable" but insisted it will not force the U.S. to change course.

"This terrible incident does not change our steadfast dedication to protecting the Afghan people and to doing everything we can to build a strong and stable Afghanistan," Clinton told reporters at the United Nations in New York.

Administration officials were reacting to the weekend massacre of 16 Afghan civilians, including nine children asleep in their beds. A U.S. staff sergeant is accused of wandering off his base to two nearby villages and shooting them in the middle of the night, burning some of the bodies.

The incident occurred in the wake of the burning of Muslim holy books at an air base in Afghanistan, which was followed by attacks that killed six American service members.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Washington and its NATO allies remain on course to hand over security control to the Afghans by the end of 2014. Carney said the pace of the troop withdrawal will depend on a variety of factors, but he would not say whether those include the weekend killings.

Carney would not say whether President Barack Obama believes the killings increase security risks for Americans in Afghanistan. The United States has about 90,000 troops in the country; that number is scheduled to drop to 68,000 by the end of September.

Thousands of Fort Bragg soldiers are serving in Afghanistan, and many others will be deployed there this year. Several soldiers in Fayetteville declined to discuss Monday the impact of the shooting spree on their mission and their safety.

Retired Air Force Gen. Robert Springer said he believes the incident makes Afghanistan a more dangerous place for U.S. troops.

"I think it does, but I think it's an isolated incident," Springer said. "I think it's a great opportunity for our soldiers and Marines to make the Afghan people really understand that they're there to help."

The accused gunman, whose name hasn't been released, is a Special Forces soldier from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.

"We're talking about one individual out of 100,000 men and women that are on the ground in Afghanistan today. So, it truly is the exception," Springer said.

Pentagon press secretary George Little called the killings a deplorable but "isolated incident."

Little told reporters there is every indication that the killings were perpetrated by a single individual "acting on his own."

Little said he could offer no explanation for how or why the killings took place. He said the soldier, now in custody, had served three tours of duty in Iraq, and this was his first tour in Afghanistan.

Little said the killing has had "no demonstrable impact at this stage" on the relationship with the Afghan military.

"This is having no impact on the war effort at this time," he said. "he reality here is that the fundamental strategy is not changing. There has been a series of troubling incidents recently, but no one should think that we are steering away from our partnership with the Afghan people, from our partnership with the Afghan security forces and from our commitment to prosecute the war effort."

Springer said it's too early to know if there were any rad flags that the military could have picked up on that might have prevented the massacre.

"Does the immediate leadership know about each of their individuals?" he said. "You have the squad leaders. You have the platoon leaders. You have the company commanders. At least at that level, they ought to know something about the personalities and the potential for these things, but my take is you can't know everything."

Clinton said the Obama administration regrets the killings.

"We recognize that an incident like this is inexplicable and will certainly cause many questions to be asked. But I hope that everyone understands in Afghanistan and around the world that the United States is committed to seeing Afghanistan continue its move toward a stable, secure, prosperous, democratic state," Clinton said.


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  • fl2nc2ca2md2nc Mar 13, 2012

    "US Presidents know how to start fighting undeclared wars just fine, but just can't figure out how to get out of them so well."

    Exactly...presidents of both parties do this. Congress needs to enforce their mandate to declare war if warranted, if not, bring the troops home!

  • geosol Mar 12, 2012

    "Religiously Conservative Muslims? Really? Where are they?" They're just like the right wing conservatives in this country - they try to justify their hate by twisting passages of the Bible and the Koran. The world would be a better place without religious "conservatives" and then the normal people wouldn't have to worry about them trying to bring us back to the 13th century everywhere.

  • vraptor Mar 12, 2012

    time to leave...

  • jdupree Mar 12, 2012

    When you don't know what to do, you do nothing!

  • Rebelyell55 Mar 12, 2012

    Sorry to hear this. I certainly hope clear heads prevail and that our troops are pulled out before 2014. Like this year or sooner.

  • gwnunn Mar 12, 2012

    I am surprised that they haven't said he was Republican yet.

  • Uhavenoclu Mar 12, 2012

    Funny how everyday you see at least one "Praise our troops for protecting our country"...Sorry they don't protect our country fighting a family squabble in another country, .But ever since this happened all the paddy wack band wagoners have said nothing.
    Told you awhile back the effects this will have on the troops not only when they come home but it has started...IT'S TIME TO GET THEM BACK HOME NOW.

  • 5Rs Mar 12, 2012

    "In total, from the end of WWII until today, the USA has had a failing grade in managing the middle east." - djofraleigh

    Yes, and why do we think we can change an area that has been in chaos for 5000 years?

  • 5Rs Mar 12, 2012

    White House Afghan Strategy: Whatever it takes to get re-elected. No change.

  • godnessgracious2 Mar 12, 2012

    Religiously Conservative Muslims? Really? Where are they? Why don't they ever speak out against their killer brethren?

    They do, but you don't understand their language.