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Reporting from Washington — A White House official predicted Monday that the weekend shooting of Afghan civilians by an American soldier will not change President Obama’s current plans for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.
But the president’s spokesman also acknowledged that the U.S. and its allies are discussing the timetable for withdrawal and that it will “certainly be a subject of discussion among heads of state at the NATO meeting in Chicago in May.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney deplored the killings, but said he doesn't believe it will change plans for withdrawal from the war zone by the end of 2014.
"I don't believe this incident will change the timetable of a strategy that was designed and implemented to allow for the withdrawal of U.S. forces, to allow for the transfer of lead security over to the Afghans," Carney told reporters.
The questions arise as the military launches an investigation into the horrific incident, which left nine children among the dead. Several were slain in their homes.
Anti-American sentiment in the country fueled deadly riots after U.S. military personnel mistakenly burned copies of the Muslim holy book, the Koran, in a trash pit. That episode was followed by several violent attacks on foreign troops in the country.
Carney's remarks come a day before Obama receives British Prime Minister David Cameron at the White House, where the two men will be discussing a range of issues, including NATO's progress and remaining challenges in Afghanistan. They are planning to take questions from reporters after their one-on-one meeting on Wednesday.
Critics think the recent violence in Afghanistan means the U.S. should exit now, while others accuse Obama of empowering the Taliban by announcing the 2014 withdrawal target.
But if Obama is rethinking his plans, he isn't signaling that in public yet.
This is a “challenging time” for the allies in Afghanistan, Carney said, but he also argued that the U.S. goal of rooting out and disabling Al Qaeda haven’t changed.
“Our strategic objectives have not changed,” said Carney, “and they will not change.”
Original source: White House: Afghanistan killings unlikely to alter withdrawal plan