The Pryor Times

Points of Interest

March 13, 2012

Shootings dent Americans' support for war

WASHINGTON (AP) — The weekend massacre of Afghan civilians, allegedly carried out by a U.S. soldier, newly undermines the rationale for a war that a majority of Americans already thought wasn't worth fighting. But the Obama administration and its allies insisted Monday the horrific episode would not speed up plans to pull out foreign forces.

President Barack Obama called the episode "tragic," and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called it "inexplicable."

Obama told a television interviewer Monday that the killings underscore the need to hand over responsibility for security to Afghans. But he said it won't lead to an early withdrawal of U.S. troops.

"It does signal, though, the importance of us transitioning, in accordance with my plan," Obama told WFTV of Orlando, Fla., "so that Afghans are taking more of the lead for their own security and we can start getting our troops home."

Clinton told reporters at the United Nations in New York, "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."

Administration officials were reacting to the weekend killing of 16 Afghan civilians, including nine children asleep in their beds. A U.S. Army staff sergeant is accused of slipping away from his base in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar and shooting nearby villagers in their homes.

Despite the deaths, "Our strategic objectives have not changed and they will not change," White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

The killings were the latest in a series of deadly incidents that caused outrage for both Americans and Afghans.

The killing of Americans by their Afghan hosts and of Afghans by the Americans who are supposed to help them have forced an acute examination of a war strategy that calls for Afghans to assume greater responsibility for security through mentoring and "shoulder by shoulder" joint operations.

Obama expanded the Afghan war in the first year of his presidency, saying it was in keeping with U.S. national security interests in contrast to the Iraq war he opposed. But the war, now in its 11th year, remains a stalemate in much of the country, while the al-Qaida terror network that the war is supposed to deter has largely abandoned Afghanistan. U.S. commandos killed Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden last year.

The war is increasingly becoming a political headache for Obama, with American voters appearing frustrated and Republican rivals accusing him of mishandling it.

In results from a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted before the killings and released Sunday, 55 percent of respondents said they think most Afghans oppose what the United States is trying to do there.

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